The word hyacinth comes from the Greek Hyakinthos, a handsome young man who in Greek mythology was loved by the sun god Apollo. One day they were practising throwing the discus but the jealous god of the West Wind, who was also in love with Hyakinthos, blew the discus back and it fatally wounded him. From his blood grew a flower which the god Apollo named after him.
Hyacinth is any plant of the genus Hyacinthus, bulbous herbs of the family Liliaceae, native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa. The common hyacinth or the Dutch hyacinth has a single dense spike of fragrant flowers in shades of red, blue, white, or yellow. Another variety of the common hyacinth smaller blue or white flowered Roman hyacinth. Hyacinths are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, and order Liliales, family Liliaceae.
It was brought to Western Europe in the 16th century and was first cultivated in Austria in the 1500's. During the 17th and 18th centuries, like the tulip, it was to be found only in the collections of very rich flower collectors. Because of the hyacinth's pervasive perfume, the bulbs were exorbitantly expensive. The bulbs are now grown in Holland and Great Britain.
They usually come in white, pink, peach and blue. More unusual colours to look for include dark wine purples , rosy reds, navy, egg-yolk yellows and soft oranges. They are a winter and spring flower available from November to April
Nowadays the cut flowers are sold with roots intact at the bottom to make the flowers last longer. Don't cut these off, but just give the stems a good rinse.
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