Grape hyacinths are one of the very first flower bulbs to provide us with spring colour. This is much appreciated because they give the garden its first signs of life after a cold grey winter. Every little grape hyacinth that peeks above the ground seems to be saying “Enough of all that gloominess - I’m back again to cheer things up!” Once they are all in bloom, they turn your garden into a happy little celebration of spring.
A chic name
They are called grape hyacinths because their flowers look like little clusters of blue grapes. Their official name, however, is much more chic: Muscari. This name is derived from the Greek muschos that refers to the delightful musky scent that some varieties have. So if you want your garden’s little celebration of spring to have a delightful fragrance, plant such varieties as Muscari aucheri 'Blue Magic', Muscari armeniacum 'Blue', Muscari botryoides ‘Album’ or Muscari macrocarpum ‘Golden Fragrance’.
When grape hyacinths aren’t blue
We often think of grape hyacinths as being blue - like their namesake, blue grapes. So you might think that all of them are blue. Yet not every grape hyacinth is blue. Actually, grape hyacinths display a very wide range of blues as well as white, lilac, purple, and pink - and some even have two colours. The more colours you have, the merrier your little celebration will be! Won’t it be simply wonderful to stand there and enjoy them all from a little distance?
Friends make it more fun
No party is any fun without visitors, and it’s the same with a mini-celebration in your garden. So be sure to invite some other early-flowering friends to your grape hyacinth get-together. You might even make it a ‘mega-mini celebration’! Grape hyacinths very much enjoy the company of other ‘early birds’ such as crocuses, hyacinths, irises, puschkinia, scilla and tulips. The more different colours you have, the more fun your mini-celebration will be!
Preparations for the party
Any successful party needs proper preparation. Start in October (end of November at the latest) by planting the grape hyacinths and their friends. If you want a lively party, plant at least 25 bulbs clustered together. If you want to go even more all out, plant 40 or 50. You could stick to just one variety for a smaller, more casual affair. Or, if you have a big exciting event in mind, combine all the different kinds of bulbs together to create a mixed planting. Plant the bulbs at a depth of 4 to 6 inches and then cover them with the soil you dug out. As a finishing touch, tamp down the soil gently with your feet. If you plant the bulbs in a good spot (sun to partial shade, not too wet), they will flower year after year without any help from you! So make this year the first annual edition of your ‘Grape hyacinth mini-celebration’!