Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hyacinths and Bluebells; Or, Giving a Script to a Non-Scripta

By Kurt Stüber [1] - part of, CC BY-SA 3.0, 
I've been interested in these plants since I was 7 years old: I remember hyacinths growing on the windowsill of South Farnborough Infant's School, and the scent of them takes me right back there. And I remember my dad telling me that the hyacinths we grow indoors in winter are cultivars, and they will "turn back into bluebells" if left alone.

I bought a pot of 3 hyacinths from Lidl the other day, (£1.49, which felt like a bargain), almost ready to flower. With the winter sunshine pouring in this morning, the sitting room smells gorgeous as the hyacinths begin to open up. It turns out that they are cultivars of Hyacinthus orientalis, [see the photo]. Well, I say cultivars, but if you investigate their propagation, they're more like Frankenstein's monsters: scooping out the bulbs just doesn't seem right, to me.

So when they're done, I'll put the in the allotment, and be quite happy for them to come back, flourish and multiply as Common Hyacinths, which look a lot like bluebells, but aren't - quite. Long story short, think of hyacinths as garden bluebells, and the other sort Hyacinthoides non-scripta) as wild bluebells. Incidentally, Scottish Bluebells, aka harebells, are something else.

Allotmenteering and researching aspects of migration are aspects of my life which rarely cross over, but they did when I saw the way the selling of wild bluebell seeds is pitched here, where they are contrasted with yet another species, Spanish bluebells, (Hyacinthoides hispanica) which are "now sadly increasingly found as escapees in the wild and even..." (Oh my God!) "...hybridised with Hyacinthoides non-scripta"! Bloody Spanish bluebells, coming over here, getting out into the woods and deflowering OUR native bluebells!

Back in Saltcoats, we had some kind of bluebell growing all around the garden each spring. I kept some seeds from them, they've been in the fridge for years now, and I'll have a go and see if they will germinate this spring. I wasn't that curious about it back then, but wonder now what member of this family they are. It's a kind of allotment soap opera.