Saturday, September 18, 2010

Enjoy The Fragrance Of Summer Hyacinth

When warm breezes bear their fragrances, Summer Hyacinth should be among them.  Also known as Galtonia candicans, Summer Hyacinth brings the beauty of hyacinths to your late summer garden.  It's a member of the Hyacinthaceae family, perennial plants that grow from flower bulbs.  The blooms are much taller than Dutch Hyacinths.  Flowers are produced in late summer to early fall on stems up 48" to long.  After flowering, the leaves yellow and die.

The genus, Galtonia (pronounced gal-TOH-nee-ah), was named to honor the brilliant Sir Francis Galton (1855 - 1911).  Galton was a man of exceptional genius and a member of a family of Victorian notables, including Charles Darwin.  Not simply a dabbler, he was an accomplished explorer, anthropologist, inventor, meteorologist, geographer and statistician.  Galton also founded such disciplines as eugenics and psychometrics, and laid the foundation in the study of genetics.

G. candicans (pronounced KAN-dee-kans) is arguably the most popular of the few Galtonia species.  Candicans refers to the white color of the bell-shaped flowers.  It is native to South Africa.

Summer Hyacinth is cold hardy in USDA climate zones 6 to 8 if mulched during winter.  It is completely cold hardy in climate zones 9 to 10.  Gardeners in colder climates can grow Summer Hyacinth plants in containers or in the garden, dig them in fall, and store them over winter.  However, it must be noted that Summer Hyacinths really don't like to be disturbed.

Summer Hyacinths thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.  Best pH should range from 6.5 to 7.5.

As always, take a sample of your garden soil to your local Cooperative Extension Service office before planting.  They will send it to a lab for analysis and recommendations.  Expect to pay a nominal fee.  If you don't understand the report, ask the County Agent to interpret it for you.

Planting begins in spring.  Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 8" deep, removing all traces of weeds.  A good all-around practice for bulbs and such is to mix 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per ten square feet area of bulb garden.  Repeat the application when growth appears, but be careful that fertilizer does not come into direct contact with plant tissue.

Plant the bulbs about 6" deep.  Depth is measured to the bottom of the hole.  Recommended plant spacing is 8" to 12" apart.

The plants require very little maintenance.  Plant them and forget about them.  They are wonderful for bulb gardens, perennial gardens, container gardens.  Summer Hyacinths are superb as cut flowers.  They last a long time.  The white blooms are wonderful when contrasted with plants having darker colored foliage and flowers.  After blooming, be sure to let the leaves yellow and die before cutting them.  Leaving them alone will allow the bulbs to build up food reserves for a glorious show the next year.  Believe me, a generous planting of Summer Hyacinths will delight the eye and nose.

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