Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hyacinthus orientalis 'Borah'

Garden hyacinths, Hyacinthus orientalis, have been in this garden as long as I have. I've always liked them, and I wouldn't want to be without at least a few every spring. However, they are all pretty much cut out with the same cookie cutter, and other than color the group varies only within very narrow limits.
I've long cherished a clump of Roman hyacinths, but other than those and the score or so of typical cultivars I've grown (both single and double), I've never looked much into the variation in cultivated hyacinths.
Last night I picked up an old paperback bulb book from 1975, Rob Herwig's 128 Bulbs You Can Grow. And in reading the account of hyacinths, I was both reminded of something I had forgotten about and also prompted to think I might be understanding something in retrospect which I didn't fully understand before. Herwig discusses the hyacinth cultivar 'Borah', aka Fairy Hyacinth. What, in the greater scheme of things hyacinth, is 'Borah'?
Evidently it is not one of the so-called Cynthella hyacinths marketed during the first half of the twentieth century (Cynthella is presumably short for "hyacinthella" - "little hyacinths" and not to be confused with the genus Hyacinthella). Cynthella hyacinths were nothing more than small bulbs of the same cultivars sold as garden or forcing hyacinths. They produced smaller inflorescences than those of full-sized bulbs. As far as I'm aware, hyacinths are no longer sold in the Cynthella sizes.
Several years ago, a new class of garden hyacinths called Festival Hyacinths appeared on the market. These are not Cynthella hyacinths. They are hyacinths which whatever their bulb size produce only multiple, relatively few-flowered stems which mimic those of the old Roman hyacinths. The Festival Hyacinths are marketed in colors, as Festival Blue, Festival White and Festival Pink. I assume these are clones.
Here's where I'm going with this: is that old cultivar 'Borah' a member of the Festival group? Is 'Borah' the plant now sold as 'Festival Blue'? Or is it a precursor of the Festival Hyacinths, derived from similar breeding lines?
And finally, is 'Borah' still in commerce under that or another name?

1 comment:

Dieselle said...

Just to say that I find that your blog is nice and well documented
At the moment I try to make something with a messy old little urban garden in Brussels, Belgium, and I would like to do a blog like this
Coincidence ! I have just bought yesterday some Iris stolonifera, hope they will grow as well as yours
Best wishes