Thursday, 3 March 2016


“I sometimes think that never blows so red The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled; That every Hyacinth the Garden wears Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.” ― Omar Khayyám

Hyacinthus orientalis (common hyacinth, garden hyacinth or Dutch hyacinth), is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant, classified in the family Asparagaceae and native to southwestern Asia, southern and central Turkey, northwestern Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel. It was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.

It is widely cultivated everywhere in the temperate world for its strongly fragrant flowers which appear exceptionally early in the season, and frequently forced to flower at Christmas time. It is a bulbous plant, with a 3–7 cm diameter bulb. The leaves are strap-shaped, 15–35 cm long and 1–3 cm broad, with a soft, succulent texture, and produced in a basal whorl. The flowering stem is a spike, which grows to 20–35 cm (rarely to 45 cm) tall, bearing 2–50 fragrant flowers 2–3.5 cm long with a tubular, six-lobed perianth.

H. orientalis has a long history of cultivation as an ornamental plant, grown across the Mediterranean region, and later France (where it is used in perfumery), the Netherlands (a major centre of cultivation) and elsewhere. It flowers in the early spring, growing best in full sun to part shade in well-drained, but not dry, soil. It requires a winter dormancy period, and will only persist in cold-weather regions.

It is grown for the clusters of strongly fragrant, brightly coloured flowers. Over 2,000 cultivars have been selected and named, with flower colour varying from blue, white, pale yellow, pink, salmon, red or purple; most cultivars have also been selected for denser flower spikes than the wild type, bearing 40–100 or more flowers on each spike.

In Greek mythology, Hyacinthus was a beautiful youth and lover of the god Apollo, though he was also admired by West Wind, Zephyr. Apollo and Hyacinth took turns throwing the discus. Hyacinthus ran to catch it to impress Apollo, was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground, and died. A twist in the tale makes the wind god Zephyrus responsible for the death of Hyacinthus: His beauty caused a feud between Zephyrus and Apollo. Jealous that Hyacinthus preferred the radiant archery god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo’s discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinthus.

When he died, Apollo did not allow Hades to claim the youth; rather, he made a flower, the hyacinth, from his spilled blood. According to Ovid’s account, the tears of Apollo stained the newly formed flower’s petals with the sign of his grief. The flower of the mythological Hyacinthus has been identified with a number of plants other than the true hyacinth, such as the iris. According to a local Spartan version of the myth, Hyacinthus and his sister Polyboea were taken to Elysium by Aphrodite, Athena and Artemis. Thamyris is said by Pseudo-Apollodorus of Athens to have been a lover of Hyacinthus and thus to have been the first man to have loved another male.

The name of Hyacinthus is of pre-Hellenic origin, as indicated by the consonant cluster “nth”. According to classical interpretations, his myth, where Apollo is a Dorian god, is a classical metaphor of the death and rebirth of nature, much as in the myth of Adonis. It has likewise been suggested that Hyacinthus was a pre-Hellenic divinity supplanted by Apollo through the "accident" of his death, to whom he remains associated in the epithet of Apollon Hyakinthios.

Hyacinthus was the tutelary deity of one of the principal Spartan festivals, the Hyacinthia, held every summer. The festival lasted three days, one day of mourning for the death of the divine hero Hyacinthus, and the last two celebrating his rebirth as Apollo Hyakinthios, though the division of honours is a subject for scholarly controversy.

In the language of flowers, a bouquet of multicoloured hyacinths means “games and sports; rashness.” A blue flower denotes “constancy”; a purple one says “I am sorry; Please forgive me: sorrow”.  The red or pink hyacinth has the meaning: “play”, while a white one says “loveliness; I'll pray for you”. A yellow hyacinth has the meaning “jealousy, I am jealous of you”.

This post is part of the Floral Fridays meme.


  1. I only knew that they had a strong fragrance

  2. Lovely contrast of colours

  3. I love these flowers. I think the stems of blooms are quite unique and so pretty!

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  5. Interesting information about a signature spring flower!
    I hope you'll come share at

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