Hyacinths are flowers known and loved for their fragrance. In in the Catskills, these early spring bulbs are planted in the garden and are most effective when located near the doorstep, where their fragrance welcomes the passerby. Many millions more people buy hyacinths forced in pots, and are able to enjoy their fragrance indoors.
Hyacinths are native to the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. In Iran, for example, they are the symbol of spring.
There are other flowers found in Catskills gardens also called hyacinth that are closely related to the florist’s hyacinth. The wood hyacinth flowers here about a month later. There are two garden species called wood hyacinth, the English wood hyacinth, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and the Spanish wood hyacinth, Hyacinthoides hispanica. H. hispanica is the species most common in Catskills gardens.
The grape hyacinth is another flower found in Catskills gardens. Here, they often begin to grow foliage in the fall, overwinter, and then resume growth and flowering in the spring. The overwintered foliage can detract from their appearance, but the grape hyacinth is so vigorous that Catskills gardeners don’t mind.
Wood and grape hyacinths readily self-sow and will increase in mass over the years, while the florist’s hyacinth, although long-lived, does not readily naturalize in our gardens. In its natural habitat, the florist’s hyacinth spreads its seed by using ants. To find out more about ants assisting plants in seed distribution, check out my blog on Dicentra and my really cute video on Ants in Action.