Friday 17 August 2012

Muscari magic

The grape hyacinth is one of the most underrated spring bulbs in English gardens; just because it is easy to grow and successful, it is much maligned for its ability to seed and spread. Typical of us gardeners – if a plant grows well we curse it and complain! The Dutch have long appreciated its value: a long flowering season, fabulous sapphire shades, the ultimate mixer when trying to join lots of clashing colours together.  In fact the wonderful blue of Muscari armeniacum is extensively used in the Keukenhof and any other display gardens in Holland.  This widely grow grape hyacinth lends itself to mass planting, and use in pots and containers, you can even dig it up and use it for indoor decoration on the windowsill.
More and more varieties of muscari appear on the market every year.  These other grape hyacinths do not seed and spread like Muscari armeniacum, so they may be a better bet for those that want control over long term garden subjects.  The inky blue Muscari latifolium (broad leaves) was used to create a river beneath trees at the Keukenhof last spring.  Its deep blue, upright blooms were teamed up with the lovely yellow Tulipa sylvestris. 

Personally I love the grape hyacinth in containers.  I planted an old galvanised bath with around 150 bulbs of mixed shades of muscari last spring and it flowered exquisitely for over a month – that’s the magic of muscari.
 The Dutch use sprinklings of grape hyacinth in pots and containers, and they are masters at using them in small outdoor containers.  I loved the ones attached to lamp posts at the Keukenhof.

If you grow grape hyacinths, Muscari armeniacum in the open ground and you want to prevent the seeding and spreading just chop off the seedheads while they are green, straight after flowering.  It’s when you allow those black seeds to develop that they spread.
Grape hyacinths are great value bulbs; buy lots this autumn and sprinkle your garden with fragrant sapphire blooms next spring.  When they flower, do not forget to pick a few for the house.  They are wonderfully fragrant and long lasting as cut flowers more muscari magic.

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