Ask Ella: Shock Therapy For Hyacinths?
Ask Ella is a recurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, Ella Stavonsky, about the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight hyacinths, whose splendid scent makes it a flower loved by many cultures across many centuries.
Hyacinths have long been a flower beloved both for their beauty and their sweet fragrance. The name, like many other flowers, comes from Greek myth. As the story goes, Hyacinthus was a young man whose beauty was so great it attracted the love of the god Apollo. One day, Apollo was teaching Hyacinthus to throw a discus when a discus accidentally struck Hyacinthus in the head, killing him. The blood from his head soaked into the ground, and as Apollo wept, hyacinths grew from the blood-stained dirt. Celebrations of Hyacinthus would take place at the end of spring, to mark the passage into summer. Today, they are a favorite in March and April, and the flower is also one of GC’s favorite spring ephemerals.
Though many varieties of hyacinth exist, the most common one used by florists is the hyacinthus orientalis, which comes in blue, pink, purple, butter, and white– making it a versatile (and luscious smelling) addition to any arrangement.
Hyacinths are an incredibly delicate flower, with easily broken stems, so care must be taken from the moment you begin placing them in the arrangement. Rather than adding hyacinths from the side, Ella recommends adding them in gently from above, so that the stems can be protected, and won’t be crushed by any other flowers you might subsequently add. Placing the bouquet in a cool, dark place at night will also help lengthen the life of hyacinths.
Once a day, the stems should be trimmed about half an inch to prolong the life of the hyacinth, and Ella also recommends keeping the stem split about an inch, to increase water uptake.
If the hyacinths begin to wilt, Ella recommends “shock therapy” for the plants. Take the hyacinths and wrap paper (leftover newspaper will do) around the heads of the flowers, so that they are enclosed but the stems are still exposed. Then, place the stems in hot, almost boiling water. If the paper is not wrapped tightly, the steam can rise and damage the flowers. After three minutes, remove the stems from the hot water, cut them about half an inch, and then place them in very cold water. This should help revive any fading blooms and keep your hyacinths handsome for as long as they can be.