One of our all-time favorite hyacinths, ‘Lord Balfour’ is an unusual, old-fashioned color that’s hard to describe but easy to love. It’s officially “wine-colored violet,” but we’d call it ‘old rose shading to silver” or maybe ‘raspberries at twilight touched with frost.” We were heart-broken when it went commercially extinct in 1999, but thanks to Alan Shipp of the UK National Collection it’s back! Exceptionally rare, zones 5a-7b(9bWC).
SUB TYPE single
BLOOM SEASONS mid spring
SOURCE UK National Collection
LIGHT full sun
PLANTING & CARE
Some people are allergic to hyacinth bulbs, developing a localized itch, so you may want to handle them with gloves. Plant in mid-fall. If necessary, store till then in open bags in a cool, dry spot.
Hyacinths do best when DRY (but not hot) in summer. Choose a sunny site with well-drained soil, avoiding or improving clay or damp soil, or plant in raised beds. Plant bulbs with base 6-8 inches deep and 5-7 inches apart on center (or closer for a lush look). Scratch a tablespoon of bulb fertilizer into the surface soil (slow-release 10-10-10 is ideal). Water.
A light, airy winter mulch such as straw, oak leaves, or pine boughs is helpful in colder zones to minimize root damage from soil repeatedly freezing and thawing.
For best results, re-fertilize lightly spring and fall, and assure even moisture then. After bloom, strip off spent florets but allow foliage to yellow (to feed the bulbs for next year’s bloom) before removing. Close the hole left in the soil by the withering foliage to deter pests. And keep those bulbs dry!
Five-Second Forcing — All hyacinths — even wild hyacinths — topple eventually. Usually it’s no big deal, but if the weather is unseasonably warm it can be disappointingly premature. To counter this, take a thin green bamboo stake about 12 inches long and run it along right next to the stem from the top of the bloom-spike down into the soil a few inches (but not so deep that you hit the bulb). The florets will clasp the stake and you’re done!
Hyacinths are easy to force for winter bloom. For complete directions, see our Forcing Bulbs page.