By Roger Erpelding
As the hyacinths bloom and die, believe it or not, it is time to plan for next year. Which hyacinths should I force again in the fall? Which should I count as a noble experiment which does not bear repeating? Which are the most fragrant?
1. The best of the best. I must give a double award to a new cultivar I purchased from Scheepers Kitchen Gardens, Aiolos. Where do they get these cultivar names anyway? Looking beyond that, this hyacinth cluster greeted me with huge white flower heads which were exceedingly fragrant. But if you grow them, be prepared to prop them up with stakes and tie them up with string. They lay down on the job, and this minimizes their beauty. I’ll be on the lookout for these when the bulb catalogs roll in this summer.
2. The Best Color. This goes to Map Sai, a new introduction offered by Dutch Gardens. They have large heads and great floret form. Their dark purple color is a favorite of mine. Again, stakes and strings are essential for this cultivar. Dutch Gardens other new hyacinth that I tried, ibis, is also a winner–large and tightly placed florets, but not as fragrant as Aiolos. My color preference is purple, so they get the nod over the almost pastel pink of the ibis. I also raised Purple Voice, but they are more of a lavender color.
3. The Reliable. Pink fondant wins this award. I see it every year in the catalog, and I follow up with an order with this one. It is fragrant, early, and produces well.
4. The big disappointment. I also ordered another new cultivar from Scheepers called “General Kohler.” Its florets are loose, and on short stems. I’ll find a different hyacinth to replace it next year. My wife Beth describes its color as medium blue, which is great. However, she also described its flower stalks and florets as “skimpy.” I can’t think of a better description.
I received my first forced hyacinth as a gift from my mother in the winter of 1962. I have been dabbling with them ever since. On occasion, the hyacinth will develop a flower stalk, grow about 3 inches, then shrivel up and die. Why? This happened to two of my bulbs this year; the rest of the bulbs in the pot grew up perfectly. I called the Iowa State “Hort line” and they are as mystified as me. Too much water, not enough chilling time or inferior bulbs are possible answers.
And there is something else unusual this year. I forced only one blue hyacinth.”King of the Blues,” “Blue Jacket” and “Delph Blue” do well, and have been past favorites. Again, there is always next year, and we’ll see what is offered.
Although the forced bulb season is winding down, there is more to come. I have purposely kept “Hollyhock,” a double pink cultivar, in a cooler and shadier part of the sun room. It will be ready for the kitchen window soon. My two pots of tulips are now growing well, and will be ready to bloom soon.
In an earlier entry, I mentioned affixing Braille labels to metal or wooden markers. The labels are made, the stakes have been sorted out, and the labels are now attached. I am still thinking of a way to label my three new scented geraniums. However, they will be “potted up” in larger pots this spring, and that solution will have to wait until then.
I am trying something new this year when it comes to fertilizing. Many of the houseplants received their first feeding with Miracle Grow houseplant spikes as scheduled. However, I did not fertilize the citrus trees. In the past, I have noticed that they develop new growth as a result of this. These new leaves are spindly, fall off when the plants are transferred outdoors in the spring, and are great targets if I have any type of insect in the sun room. These trees are holding their own, and will wait until April this year for their food boost. Gardening is always dynamic, which makes it wonderful.