Blue Jacket

'Blue Jacket'

"And the songs pass
From the green land
Which lies upon the waves as a leaf
On the flowers of hyacinth."

-Richard Aldington


To me the many Hyacinthus orientalis cultivars as prepared for market all too often resemble some sort of dense vegetable in a bizarre array of color, & not actually all that pleasant, for want of subtlty.

I know most people love that look, but the minority who share my feeling of being put-off by the gaudiness of these short spring flowers may be encouraged to know that they change for the better as they age in the garden.

If left to perennialize undisturbed, they become decreasingly tight year by year, but loosen up with an airier flower still extremely colorful, but looking much more natural. "Show" quality bulbs have to be babied & tricked into the artificiality of their famously dense flower spikes, whereas left to their own devices they can be extremely pretty without looking like spray-painted footballs.

Blue JacketSo their first spring in the garden the bloom is an eight-inch tall stalk of dense flowers, but it ages in consecutive years into a foot-tall looser flower that I find becomes increasingly comely & pleasant. They may occasionally with age reach 18 inches or so.

Some of the bright colors may also seem a bit "much" for any naturalistic setting. But all things being relative, 'Blue Jacket' is somewhat subtle, in that its bright blues are moderated with a silvery cast at the petal edges & tips. Right through the center of the blue is a purple stripe.

The ones in this little drift, shown in March photos, are middle-aged. They're not too tightly dense, but not as loose as they will appear after a couple more years in the ground. With the looser bloom one can see that each little flower in the floret is tubular with reflexed petals. They are for my taste just so much more delightful when the individual flowers can be seen into, amidst, & around. But I can imagine some gardeners who expected a dense football-flower year after year being disappointed by the airier flowering.

The dwarf rhododendron flowering in the background is an early-blooming Karin Seleger. The crocus grass immediately behind the hyacinths is C. korolkowii 'Kiss of Spring,' which is already finished blooming by mid-March when its lingering grass becomes taller.

'Blue Jacket' was introduced in 1953 by C. J. Zonneveld of the Dutch botanical family. This makes it one of the "New" Hyacinths, since some cultivars date to the 1860s. The usual cut-off date for "New" is 1950. It blooms for us beginning in mid-March & lasts well into April.

They never naturalize in terms of reproducing their bulbs in the garden, but they seem nearly immortal, returning year after year after year, unlike so many spring bulbs that are supposed to perennialize or naturalize but most commonly fade out of the garden a bit each year.

Other species of short bulbous flowers, even when sweet-smelling, really cannot be smelled while standing up; but a drift of hyacinths can be smelled from some distance, & pleasing that is! In a somewhat enclosed patio area or the like, even a single hyacinth can fill the air with its marvelous redolence. Indeed, I began planting oriental hyacinths not for the gaudy appearance but for the unbeatable perfume, & over time I've even come to like their excessive look.


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