Hyacinth Bulbs

It is not too late to plant hyacinth bulbs in glass bulb vases. The best time to plant them is in September for Christmas flowering, however you could plant some now and they would almost certainly flower over the Christmas/New Year holiday. You need to buy ‘forced’ hyacinth bulbs from your garden centre and make sure you use the plastic gloves supplied to pick them up. They can cause a very allergic reaction when they touch the skin. I decided not to bother with the gloves one year and my hands developed a horrible rash which lasted for several days.

You then add water to the vase and pop the bulb into the top (sometimes I have found jam jars with narrow tops which also work). It is really important not to get the base of the bulb wet. Once planted I always put them in a dark place and it takes about 5-10 days (sometimes longer) for the first roots to appear. Once the tip of the bulb and the roots are showing put them on a windowsill and turn them occasionally to encourage them to grow with a straight stem. There are some really good tips on the web for growing Hyacinth bulbs in this way. Have a look at Youtube “Tips For Easily Forcing Hyacinths Bulbs to Bloom Indoors”.

Growing Hyacinths in this way has been done since the 1730s but it was the Victorians who really embraced the fashion. Some Victorian homes had several bulb vases on their windowsills. This passion for growing Hyacinths hydroponically went completely out of fashion after the Victorian period. My family always used to grow some each year. When we were children my brother and I had one each and there was always a race to see whose came out first. Needless to say mine was pink, his was always blue.

George Piercy Tye who was born in 1810 was a Birmingham industrialist. He began his career as a die-sinker and seal engraver. He was the first person to design and produce a glass vase for growing forced Hyacinths. In 1850 he patented his design. His vases were one of the few bulb vases marked by the manufacturer which were moulded and stamped on the bottom. Many other designs were made but usually they were hand blown at that time. There were many vase colours, blue, green, cranberry, amber and amethyst were the most popular.

Georgian bulb vases are very tall about 19cm high and often in rich blue glass. You can occasionally see them at antique fairs or in antique shops. The Victorian versions are not so tall and can be found for £40-£60. I cannot find any information about the colour of the flowers grown in the 18th and 19th centuries. These days you can buy pink, blue, white, yellow, dark pink and lilac flowering bulbs. Don’t be surprised if they come up a different colour than the one you thought you had bought. It occasionally happens. They do smell wonderful when they are flowering and in my opinion the white and the blue ones have the best perfume.

I have 2 bulb vases on the go. The blue one is Victorian and is probably made from Bristol Blue glass. The amethyst one is modern and was made in China. You can see the roots growing best in this one.

2 bulb vases


bulb roots

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