Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A Bowl of Hyacinths

Secretive bowls of earth snugly tucked up in soft green moss, just the smallest hint of a stubby shoot peeking out at gloomy winter days; a bowl of hyacinths was a standard feature in my grandmother’s sitting room in the darkest December months. There would be a log fire in the grate, dim afternoon light barely making an impression through the small window panes, tea in cups and saucers and best behaviour.

We often had a bowl of the bulbs at home too – they were great as gifts for children to give their mums or grannies for Christmas. The bulbs would gradually send up fat snouts, growing into glossy leaves hiding the beginnings of a flower. We’d peek in to try and see if it would be pink, blue or white. Then one day it would start to open and wafts of fragrance would fill the room.

I’d almost forgotten about bowls of hyacinths until my sister-in-law made herself one this year. For some reason I’d thought that South Africa didn’t have them – our winter months are so much less dark and gloomy than England’s and it’s not Christmas, something I’d always associated with hyacinths. I went into raptures as the nostalgic scent transported me back thirty years, and when we got back from holiday I found that we now had our own bowl of bulbs, thanks to my lovely SIL.

The first two flowers are now open already. Do they grow more rapidly here, or is the remembered slow progress and weeks of anticipation just a feature of time passing more slowly when you’re a child? Anyway the first two flowers are white ones and as fragrant as I remembered. In our huge living room the scent isn’t overwhelming, coming in wafts as you pass the table. The house has never smelled so sweet before! This is definitely a new winter tradition to keep alive in our family.

I've also written about hyacinths over at Green Living Tips as a natural alternative to air fresheners.


  1. I always used to have hyacinths in South Africa as well they are lovely. I have them in the garden here and they come out in early spring. Great photos. Diane

  2. We have them here every year - sometimes more successfully than others (in terms of size) but the scent is always delightful. We try to have different colours from one year to the next but blue remains the favourite.

  3. Kit - GORGEOUS! The flowers aren't too bad looking, either. *wink*

  4. I do not know if I remember them much growing up in Port Elizabeth (with the super-mild winters!) but I have fallen totally in love with them here in the UK. Your description of the scent is spot-on: it perfumes the entire house!


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