The Gardener's Apprentice

Hyacinth Discovery

Every gardener has “holy grails”—plants that they have waited years to acquire.  Sometimes they are new introductions or discoveries that are prohibitively expensive; other times they are species or varieties that have gained popularity in Europe or the Far East and haven’t made their way to U.S. shores.

I have some evergreen “holy grails” that I have lusted after for years and others that have spent less time on the “most wanted” list.  Yellow, double-flowered hyacinths are in the former category.  I first heard about them several years ago when I interviewed Alan Shipp, holder of the British National Collection of hyacinths.  Shipp had been in touch with a Lithuanian botanist, who had discovered many old hyacinth varieties at a botanical garden in that country.  At the time, Shipp was hoping to acquire some of the yellow doubles.  He must have gotten them, increased his stock and ultimately sent bulbs on to Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Now, at long last, Kunst is offering a limited number on his website, http://www.oldhousegardens.com.  They are a little expensive, as hyacinths go, but the price was right for me.  As Scott Kunst noted, they are not available commercially anywhere else in the world.

Ship and Kunst thinks that these yellow double hyacinths may be an old variety called ‘Ophir,’ a reference to the supposed location of the legendary King Solomon’s Mines.  Whether they are ‘Ophir’ or another heirloom cultivar, they are beautiful, with soft, fluffy yellow florets.  Like all hyacinths they are fragrant.

I ordered mine in the middle of the night–as soon as I opened up Old House Garden’s e-mail.  I didn’t want to risk losing my long-sought yellow doubles to some other zealous hyacinth lover.   Now I can’t wait for their arrival in October.  There is nothing like retrieving a “holy grail.”