Gorgeous Grape Hyacinths
Spring bulbs are valuable to every landscape. After a long dreary winter, they provide brilliant colors and sweet scents at a time when the garden and gardener need them most. Everyone knows daffodils and tulips, but there are many other types available. The grape hyacinths are some of the easiest and cutest.
Grape hyacinths (Muscari species) are smaller but otherwise similar to their hyacinth cousins with spikes of fragrant, purplish flowers from early spring to mid spring. The common grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) has 6-12" flower stalks in mid spring. The bell-shaped flowers look like tiny grapes. Each bulb can produce a few flower stalks so they have a longer bloom time than most other spring bulbs. 2-3 weeks of bright purple flowers is typical. In mass common grape hyacinth makes an incredible statement and is used by designers to make the "river of blue" in Dutch landscapes.
Sky blue grape hyacinth (Muscari azureum) is the earliest blooming grape hyacinth. As the snowdrops and crocuses are finishing, sky blue grape hyacinth pokes up its 3-6" flower stalks. This diminutive species is one for rock gardens, raised beds, or containers. Put it somewhere you can notice the blossoms up close and admire the intricacies of this tough, intrepid flower.
From the shortest to the tallest, one-leaf grape hyacinth (Muscari latifolium) has 12-18" spikes of two-toned flowers in mid spring. The bi-colored blooms (violet flowers on bottom, lavender on top) seem to float over the garden. One-leaf grape hyacinth is tall enough to interplant with tulips and daffodils, but it looks better among hellebores, early euphorbias, and anemones. Because there is only one unobtrusive leaf (sometimes two), one-leaf grape hyacinths also work well in veggie gardens among spring greens likes kale, lettuce, and mustards.
Muscari neglectum, or blue bottles as my great aunt from South Carolina used to call them, is among the quickest to spread in warmer climates. The oblong, violet flowers resmeble tiny, old-fashioned bottles. All grape hyacinths will naturalize by spreading seeds and bulb offsets, but few are as prolific as blue bottles. They have spread so wide and far in the South, that many gardeners think these Eurasian bulbs are native wildflowers.
There are dozens more Muscari species and cultivars with individual attributes that make them garden worthy too. They all produce a welcome drink of sweet nectar for the early pollinators. As a veggie gardener, I need pollinators. Muscari helps get them to the garden early and often. It is one of the many spring flowers in my garden that keeps bees and butterflies coming back so they are present in summer when the cucumber and squash bloom.
Did you plant Graph hyacinths last fall? Are you enjoying them now?
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