HYACINTH CULTURE AT HAARLEM IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
CHAPTER I -- INTRODUCTION
SAINT-SIMON, writing in the year 1768, declares there were at that time in Haarlem nearly two thousand named varieties of the hyacinth, and we may suppose they had already been about forty years in cultivation on a soil which seemed particularly adapted for the purpose, -- a fine upper stratum of grey sand, superposed by the action of the sea on a thin subsoil of peat, so that Nature prepared, it seems, many thousand years in advance to produce the delicately-tinted and exquisitely-scented flower, which rises as if by magic out of the cold earth in a few weeks' space.
One well-named variety, "Sceptre of David," reminds one of the long moral preparation of one people chosen out of the nations of the earth (a stiff soil to work), before the long-desired of the hills should come, when there should come a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower should rise up out of his root.
If there are "correspondences" in the material and spiritual worlds, the flower that cometh up in a day has its root in the ages.
The hyacinth is one of the most perfect results of man's Art -- Art, for Saint-Simon is persuaded that the hyacinth has become what it is principally through cultivation, and without human patience and perseverance -- if nature had been left entirely alone -- a much less pleasing and exquisite flower would have appeared.
Every year new varieties are developed, and hope springs eternal in the breast of the cultivator. Haarlem, the Paradise of Flowers, may be especially described as the home of the hyacinth.
Upon his arrival at Haarlem, the stranger is so dazzled with the spectacle of the wonderful and brilliantly coloured carpet spread before his eyes, that he does not at first realise there is yet further joy to be found in the singular beauty of certain species and varieties taken individually.
There he sees acres of hyacinths, double and single, in uninterrupted ranges of pure colour; the only intervals between the rows being the little grey sand paths, to enable the cultivator to reach the flowers.
It is difficult for the imagination to picture a piece of earth so brilliantly enamelled with flowers, and yet such variety and beauty in detail. The rarest and finest specimens are put apart from the rest in chosen spots, and these again are arranged in symmetrical order, with such taste and so unsullied and trim, that one can hardly believe Nature has been allowed any hand at all in the arrangement. The florist's art seems to have triumphed almost too completely. Well, one may say the florists of Haarlem have played the predominant part, and their long experience, aided by the succours of reason, have shown them how to assist Nature by seconding her efforts, and thus to raise her to a stage beyond herself. In any case, the flowers they cultivate seldom reach such a high state of development elsewhere. However active and industrious they may be, no amateur, with all his talents, has ever reached to such surprising perfection -- in strength and form of stem and blossoms; or to such brilliancy of colouring, though many possessing both talent and experience have spared neither trouble nor expense in their endeavours to produce the same result. They are inclined to attribute their want of success to the nature of their climate and the soil, and like to regard Haarlem as a place especially privileged in these respects.
If amateurs had any idea of the spirit of emulation rife among the Haarlem growers, and the way their whole attention is absorbed, -- how unceasingly they labour and continually verify their experiments, always reflecting and improving upon them and making fresh combinations, -- they would then know the work is not impossible, and they need only be endowed with the indomitable qualities of the Dutchman, and they might produce the same results.
There is no doubt that there exists, even in Haarlem, a sensible difference between growers of the first class and the more second-rate cultivators; for, although all are imbued more or less with the same spirit, and enjoy the same advantages of soil, climate, etc., yet some, through learning and experience, rise superior to the rest in this line.
If in other countries amateur growers kept more in touch with one another, and co-operated as do the Haarlem cultivators, there would be less occasion for despair. For a good deal of their success conies from their united efforts and experiments, so that among them all they have many ways of knowing how to preserve bulbs, to propagate them, and guard them from destructive accidents.
Nobody knows exactly where hyacinths come from originally -- the name of the hyacinth called "Orientalis," whose origin can be traced back till it is lost in the obscurity of ages -- seems to imply that this flower originated in the East, and there has been much discussion about the fact that Moses in the book of Exodus speaks of the colour of the hyacinth -- but whether he refers to it only as a colour, or as a flower, or as a precious stone, it is impossible to say -- for it has been differently translated in various languages. Saint-Simon tells us that Dioscorides, in the time of Vespasian, describes a flower he calls "Hyacinthos" in these words: "L'Hyacinthe a les feuilles des plantes bulbeuses et la tige dodrantale (c'est-à-dire de trois paulmes, pans ou empans de haut, on n'est pas d'accord sur cette mesure non plus), faible, et plus mince que le petit doigt, de couleur verte, dont le haut s'incline sous le poids d'une tête chargée de fleurs purpurescentes." People have argued indefinitely on the precise shade of "purple," and to this day they have not decided if it should be more red than blue or more blue than red. The general opinion seems to be that the original hyacinth was the colour of the natural wild hyacinth (which is a Scilla?) which grows in the woods, where the red variety is not nearly as commonly found as the blue.
On the other hand, the first species may have been red, for in old fables it seems the hyacinth was thought to be red. Ovid relates how a flower sprang from the blood of the young Hyacinthus,1 whom Apollo slew by accident with a quota. Others, like Pliny and Pausanias, say the blood of Ajax, slain near Salamis, was changed into this flower.
Whatever its original colour, and whatever country it came from, it is certain that many species have been produced by the florists of Haarlem, and have entirely originated in their gardens. Yet it is to be remembered that all came from the old original stock, however different they have now become. Their natural simplicity has been lost to a certain extent.
Florists divide hyacinths into four classes:
1. The Single Hyacinth -- the corolla divided into six segments.
2. Semi-Double -- only slightly double, with a few petals irregularly disposed behind the single.
3. Double -- the outer petals lined with an equal number of other petals in regular order.
4. Full Hyacinth -- which has a heart as full of petals as it can hold.
These four classes furnish a great number of varieties. We cannot define further without going into their distinguishing features and numerous subdivisions.
The Full Hyacinth possesses the greater number and best varieties. It is important a hyacinth should belong to the best (one of full) varieties -- but this is not sufficient to constitute a good flower. The petals should grow in very regular order -- especially those within the heart of the flower, and the petals should as well be curved back very evenly at their tip. They should also be of a beautiful clear and decided colour, and this is a great charm in a hyacinth. As well as being as perfect and decided as possible, the colour of the inner should harmonise agreeably with the colour of the outer petals.
In this respect there is nothing to be found to surpass the Gloria Florurn Suprema2 -- the blossoms being perfectly disposed the full length of the stem, which rises tall and very straight, but is, unfortunately a little too thin to support the weight of the flowers. The petals are very pure white, and their tips fold back with the greatest regularity, forming a perfectly symmetrical bud (or button). Colours such as blue and black, red and white are satisfactory combinations. White hyacinths, as a rule, are the most delicately shaded, but each variety has a beauty entirely its own.
Of every colour there are kinds which obtain high prices, but the beauty or merit of a flower is not exactly determined by the monetary value -- for people pay for novelty; the rarity it is which enhances the value. However, they must, besides, have other essential qualities. Gloria Mundi and Franqois Ist, and other blues, which used to be the only ones which could at all compete with Gloria Florurn Suprema, have at last found their rival among the white varieties. "Og Roi de Basan," "Le Comte de Provence," etc., lose nothing by comparison. Some of the reds, Rex Rubrorum and Mine d'Or have as many points in their favour. There are now hyacinths of almost every shade. But only at Haarlem are thousands of varieties and shades to be seen together, and there one can feast one's eyes to one's heart's content. When a new kind is raised from seed it causes a great sensation.
Saint-Simon, after expatiating at length on the endurance of the hyacinth through centuries of growth, ever reproducing itself with renewed vigour, -- showing no sign of exhausting the stock, says: "Cependant cet oignon si merveilleux, ~ternel, pour ainsi dire, dans l'imagination et pr6sent aux yeux pendant tant de sibcles, ne dure effectivement que quatre ~ cinq ans."
The hyacinth is propagated by its offshoots or young bulbs. It also reproduces itself from seed. From the seed new varieties are produced. Hyacinth bulbs will bloom in any direction they are placed, even upside down -- the flower will grow downwards in a vase of water.
If you take the bulb at the moment of planting, that is, when it is beginning to show the tender green point of its shoot, the first thing to do is to examine if it is healthy. It should be round and full, and not shrivelled; though each variety differs slightly in form, yet all should be properly rounded in appearance, because this shows the bulb is in good condition, nor should it be too light in weight for its size. If it is, it shows it is drying up inside and is deficient in sap. But to be small in size does not matter, for some of the beautiful red varieties have very small bulbs, and very often single hyacinths have larger bulbs than the double.
There is a kind of double hyacinth, white with a red heart, which is known by its outer tunic, which is always wrinkled and defective. In spite of its appearance, by its weight and form one may judge if it is in good condition. The roots often grow like a crown round the base of the bulb, and the space in the centre is called the "eye" of the roots. This space is covered with a membrane; and in choosing bulbs, this is the part you must first examine carefully to see if there are any signs of decay. There should be no marks of damp or of mildew in the eye at the base of the bulb.
When the time draws near for planting, the bulb should show little swollen white points at the base where the roots are to come.
The tunics or suberous leaves (what is called skin on an ordinary onion) are always covered over with a thin, dry, reddish skin, which falls off after a time, but is at first useful in protecting the other tunics when the bulb is in the earth, for it is planted in the dampest season of the year. No tunic entirely embraces the circumference of the bulb, but only about two-thirds of it. The tunics are really an extension (in the bulb) of the long green leaves, only the part of these leaves which show green above ground fall off in the end of the year, and the base of them, which remain within the bulb as tunics, spread and increase till, when they are pushed by each year's growth from the centre to the outside of the bulb (by the growth of new stem and leaves within), they get weaker and thinner, until at last they turn into the dry, red, outside skin, which finally decays and falls off.
The tunics are of the same substance as the rest of the bulb (which is composed of fleshy scales), and the difference is so gradual that it is impossible to see where the fleshy substance of the bulb begins to change into the suberous quality of the leaves, and yet there is a very marked difference between the bulb and its leafy scales; they are, however, an undetachable whole, and you cannot pull off the inner tunic leaves of the hyacinth from the base, as you can pull off the leaves of an artichoke.
As soon as the bulb is taken from the ground it begins to grow and increases rapidly during the three months it lies on the shelf, and all this time it lives on the sap-nourishment accumulated by it when in the earth. The sap concentrated in the bulb can preserve it for a great length of time, but it is not quite sufficient to enable the bulb to finish all the work it has to do, and if it flowers it will not have strength enough to bring its seeds to maturity. (Saint-Simon here observes that this is not attributable to the bulb having no roots, but to its inward indisposition.)
Some people imagine that a bulb which has been kept from flowering can reserve itself for the following year. Many such experiments have been made, and bulbs have been kept back on the shelves and have not been allowed to flower; they have invariably perished, and, growers sa)', scarcely a year passes that they have not tried the experiment, -- they have lost every bulb which was not put into the ground. As a rule the sap in a bulb will be sufficient nourishment during its ordinary growth till January or February, but after that it will begin to grow mouldy and go bad. The moment it is put in earth or over water, in the proper season, the bulb, which is just beginning to be exhausted, pumps up sap so vigorously that it begins at once to throw out roots from almost the first day, and growers dare not move them again, even a few hours after they have been put in, to send them away, however carefully packed, even a short distance, for fear the fresh moisture they have sucked up so quickly should cause them to rot, and they even consider it a dangerous process to change them from one place to another, in the same bed, if they have been but half an hour in the ground. The roots, which are in such a hurry to show themselves when first the bulbs are planted, perish as quickly as they grow. They stop growing before the flower is in full bloom, and are always quite dried up before the seed begins to ripen. While the root is perishing the flower continues, the stem grows, and all the flowers expand completely. When the flower is quite over and the seed is left to ripen, the sap goes into the leaves, which lengthen considerably, then these die in their turn, till they separate from the bulb of themselves.
CHAPTER II. -- BULBS
It has already been shown what sort of appearance the outer tunics present, and it has been explained how the tunics in general are formed. We are now going to push our examination further. After divesting the bulb of seven or eight tunics (or fans), one comes (A) upon a little thin flattened thread of crimson colour, like a line. It is, as it were, embedded in one of the tunics; it starts from the base of the bulb and rises to the extreme top.
Continuing to take away again the same number of tunics, one comes upon a second thread (B) like the first, A, only that it is less red and thicker; then, for the third time, taking off another seven or eight tunics, one meets with a third line or fillet (C), very like the two first, with this difference, it is quite white and much thicker. Under the last fillet are the new leaves (or fans), beginning to bud, about seven or eight in number, and in the centre of them is the stem, which is going to flower in a few months.
Now all the tunics are supposed to be taken off, and only the three fillets or threads which we spoke of are left (A, B, C). Fillet A is all that is left (within the bulb) of the stem which flowered eighteen months ago.
Fillet C is the remains of the stem of the last flower borne by the bulb, six months before.
Fillet D is the stem which is about to flower in six months' time (the flower buds are already sufficiently formed to be seen), and E contains the stein and tunic leaves, which are to come into bud in another eighteen months.
If, when the bulb is in full flower, you divest it of all its tunics, till you come to the flower stem, -- you will find at the base of it a very tiny bud; if you take away the stem, which easily breaks off, you will find the bud remains firmly attached to the base of the bulb. If you open the bud with a penknife, you will see it is composed of six or seven little leaves (or fans), and inside a tiny stem, furnished with buds, which has begun to grow already, and from the moment the bulb is laid on the shelves it increases till the time comes for putting it again in the earth. We have been speaking all this time of the double hyacinth. The single hyacinth is somewhat differently constructed, for it usually throws out several shoots from the sides as well as from the centre. The single bulb does not appear to last so long, for its fillets are fewer, but the number of flowering stems it produces, and the irregularity of their growth, makes it difficult to follow it in its various stages of development as exactly as one can the double. By dint of observing, year after year, bulbs, both those in a good state of preservation and some partially decomposed, it has been discovered that the bulb always loses the same number of outer tunics as it gains interiorly new ones. When once a bulb has acquired the regulation number of tunics, it will always keep to the same number year by year, and nevertheless every year it is putting forth seven or eight from its centre. The outer tunics, which we call "red skin," regularly shrivel and decay in the earth, and thus they disappear.
The central (fans) or young tunics, when they turn into leaves, do the work of an air-pump; they are the lungs by which the plant lives; they dilate in heat and contract in cold. When dilated they take in the air, with all with which it is impregnated, and they give it out again with the regularity that an animal breathes through its lungs.
Plants do not like the shade of trees; they need open air and sunshine, and they like places where they catch the dew and rain and mist; the moisture thus obtained through their leaves is better for them than water poured upon them from a watering-pot.
Planted in hot-houses or under glass they do without much water, because the hot air produces vapour by the sun's rays from above or from the fire beneath, and it is necessary to introduce a little air in order to let it evaporate (but the plants must not be chilled by cold seizing them in the process). Hyacinths which are protected by planks sometimes do better than those under glass.
The planks are lifted and the plants find themselves exposed to the open air, this is only done when the air is not likely to injure them. To be kept constantly under glass or in a room sometimes affects their colour and shape. It also spoils their colour to be exposed to heavy rain or a very hot sun, which exhausts them. The leaves (as the leaves of a tree) turn on their pedicels one side to the earth, for one surface of the leaf sucks in moisture and the other gives it out. What they receive through the upper surface by day they give out through their under surface at night by a process of evaporation.
When the bulbs are planted the leaves (or fans)are already pushing forth a green shoot. The gardener does not feel particularly uneasy if the frost touches the tip of the shoot, but they are very much afraid of (the frost)its reaching the flower-buds within the shoot, for if their tops are nipped by the frost, the hyacinths will be disfigured. If any one or two of the leaf sheaths get yellow or diseased they can be cut away without injuring the bud, and neither will the bulb itself suffer, as in any case the leaves drop off in the end of the year.
It is evident now that Nature works in the bulb from the interior to the exterior, and this principle must be well borne in mind by the cultivator.
CHAPTER III. -- YOUNG BULBS
Having thoroughly examined roots, leaves, and tunics, we now come to the organs of reproduction, and as the young bulbs form them themselves very oddly and irregularly at the base of the old bulb, it is very difficult even for a connoisseur to judge whether any little bulbs are coming, and still less can he foretell how many he may hope for. Sometimes they are numerous, and on single hyacinths twenty-four have been known to develop on one bulb, but on single hyacinths they develop very irregularly, while on the double they are more regular in their growth; growing from the centre; though, as the central stem with all its leaves grows, the new little bulbs are pushed more and more to the sides -- sometimes they push through to the outside of the bulb, sometimes between the tunics, wherever they can get air.
Each baby bulb contains the same number of (fans) leaves as the parent shoot, and develops in the same way -- only that the first flower of the new bulb is very thin and small. The tunics partake of the same bulbous substance which forms the base of the bulb until it grows to the height (or point) when it begins to take the suberous quality which distinguishes the leaves from the bulb substance, and so the tunics, as far upwards as they partake of the bulb substance, possess the same capacity of producing young bulbs, which grow from them in the same manner as from the base.
Some gardeners, in order to multiply their bulbs more rapidly, perform the following operation: with the point of a penknife they cut into the base of the bulb (the point turned upwards and inwards), turning the knife round inside the bulb, the base is cut out (with crown and centre) in the shape of a cone -- the upper portion forming a concave, exactly fitting the convex of the base (which is the interior which has been separated by the knife).
The separated base forms no stem the first year, and the inner tunic leaves (fans) are little and poor, and seem hardly to have strength to grow, but they form themselves into tunics quite well, and are grown enough by the following year to cover the stem, which, however, is not quite developed as it should be till the third year -- then it is as good as any other of its species. The inferior or lower part scarcely ever produces young bulbs after it is cut from the rest.
The two parts of the bulb should be carefully put into very dry sand, covering them about two inches -- they must be left some little while exposed to the sun, which would burn them if not well covered with sand: they must then be put in a window or in some place where they are well preserved from damp; they are thus left for four or five weeks -- the superior part turned top upwards -- the under part anyhow, it is a matter of indifference how it is placed. In four or five weeks' time the upper portion has developed such a number of young bulbs that they are injuring one another.
The baby bulbs are by this time perfectly formed, and one can count their leaves or tunic leaves (fans), six or more, and each possesses its stem. The upper part (of the bulb operated upon), consisting of tunics without base or crown, which is thus able to produce so many young bulbs, can also manage to nourish them during their early growth (though without roots).
This operation will sometimes save a bulb when it is beginning to decay at the base, and it will thus produce bulbs when the decayed part has been cut away. The bulb called "l'Eveque" has a way of bringing forth young bulbs like buds at the base of the flower-stalk -- one or two young bulbs will be found adhering to it an inch or so above ground. These little bulbs are as well formed as if they had come from the base and had been nurtured in the earth. Perfect bulbs can be raised from them by cutting the stem an inch above and an inch below the part to which the young bulbs are attached; they are then put by in earth, and treated in the same way as those which had the con/c operation performed on them; and just as those were grown and nurtured, simply fed by the tunics -- so these obtain their sap for the first year entirely at the expense of the stem, and without starting any roots on their own account. Never more than two bulbs grow thus upon a stem, while very often nearly thirty appear on the upper part of the bulb, which has been separated from the lower part (cone shape). The bulbs grown on the stem take a longer time in coming to perfection than those that start from the base, as a rule in their first year they seem to reach to the same stage as a three-year-old bulb which has been raised from seed -- and follow the same gradual course of development, not producing a perfect stem in the beginning.
It is a well-known method with gardeners to cut their bulbs in order to give air and outlet to the young bulbs that are coming. They are simply sliced across (not very deeply) underneath, at their base; sometimes they are slit crosswise, good care being taken the knife does not cut into the growing flower stem in the centre (the centre of the cross-cuts meeting a little to one side to avoid the central stem). By this means this year's shoot is preserved, and when the bulb bursts asunder (along the lines cut for it, through the strength of the young bulb-shoots pushing their way through) a principal bulb forms itself in the centre, which by the second year is as perfect as any.
There is no part of a bulb which can be pointed out as exclusively serving for the production of young bulbs. They come sometimes from the centre, sometimes from the stem -- bursting open the bulb and becoming so like it in form that gardeners have some difficulty in distinguishing the parent bulb from the new. It seems inconceivable that Nature should put such strength into such a delicate production as the young bulb; when once it finds space to develop itself there is no part of the old bulb it will not force to let it through. The angular form of the young bulb comes from the kind of resistance it meets and moulded by the space in which it is free to expand. If it grows on the outside of the bulb, it is concave on the side which joins the round side of the bulb, while on its outer side it is round.
After the first year the young bulb becomes its normal shape, like those which are raised from seed. It is difficult to ascertain if a bulb is going to produce young ones or not, -- it is easy to be mistaken, though the conic operation will show clearly in a few weeks if young bulbs are going to develop. It seems scarcely possible that those which develop more naturally can force their way through the tunics without aid, and do their work in the space of one year,
It has been found that when young bulbs have not strength sufficient in their first year to burst the tunics, their development is much assisted by the bulb being cut. The different experiments which have been made prove convincingly that a bulb can bear many amputations safely, and if at any time a sickly bulb has to be cut, one may be pretty certain to get young bulbs from it by taking care to keep the wound made by the cut quite dry.
There are some bulbs, such as François Ist, which may exist years without producing a single young bulb, while others produce at so great a rate that one only wishes they would stop. This shows that young bulbs are plentiful, and may grow in all parts of a bulb, -- only that in some they find more resistance than in others, -- and the difficulty they find in working their way through the harder sorts causes the slight difference in the forms of the bulbs in the different species. Though all look very much alike to the casual observer, there are nevertheless differences between them. There are some famous growers, such as George Voorhelm, who seldom makes a mistake though he owns 1200 sorts. Each sort has its own regular and distinctive method of reproduction, and peculiarities which mark one species never become accidental in another; each kind keeps to its own manners and customs.
Nature being ever obedient to laws, certain knowledge of her ways is the more easy to acquire -- the law of species will be the same in a thousand years as it is to-day. Culture has certainly improved species, and finished what Nature could not by herself complete. Some accidents have become thus a second nature, remaining permanent if another accident does not again occur to disturb the existing order.
CHAPTER IV. -- SEEDS
Although there is a way of propagating hyacinths by seed, like other plants, yet it should be known to all that it is seldom that a double hyacinth produces seed, and such a thing has not been known as a seed (from either double or single hyacinth)ever producing a species at all resembling the hyacinth from which the seed is taken. "La Perruque quarrée," a red hyacinth, has produced "La Comète " -- a very fine sort, and a splendid red, but it has no resemblance to "La Perruque quarrée," and yet they are about the nearest in likeness that have been produced. There is no visible difference between the seeds of double and single hyacinths. Gardeners are more hopeful of raising double flowers from the seeds of single hyacinths than of raising double from the seeds of double. They have not yet found any principle to go upon in the choice of seeds, however many experiments have been made. Some have thought a well-formed hyacinth in its seventh year, being then in its prime, is more likely to produce double flowers from its seed than it would be if ten or fifteen years older. It is supposed that the seed of a full hyacinth, which has its petals redoubled to the centre of the flower, possesses an advantage over others, or double may be raised from its seed, but it very rarely produces seed at all; when it does, success is still very uncertain. Some like to try semi-double; some follow one method, some another, few obtain the same result twice over. Some amateurs, once upon a time, longing to obtain a new sort of flower, sowed the seeds of a single yellow hyacinth, very pale in colour, and of quite a small and common sort; they were lucky enough to obtain splendid flowers of a very good white, the centre a perfect yellow, stems and blossoms all superb, -- " Saturne," "Heroine," "Flavo Superbe." "Og Roi de Basan" also derives its origin from the stock raised from this seed.
Countless experiments have been made, and all tend to show that flowers produced from seed never resemble the flower from which the seed was taken. As a rule they differ in every point, shape, colour, and height. Nature insists so much on variety that even seeds taken from the same seed-vessel do not produce flowers alike. Some may be red, others blue or white, large or small, as the case may be, sometimes they are fortunate enough to get several double varieties from the seed of the single hyacinth. It must be confessed, added to other difficulties there is this: it is four years before the seed produces its flower -- that is, in an ordinary way, for sometimes it is more advanced by one or two years. As during the course of four years the bulbs are taken up three times out of the ground, it may sometimes happen that the experiment has failed through negligence, but there has never been any doubt at all about the fact of a seed never producing the same kind of hyacinth as the parent stock.
One should not cut the hyacinth stalk, or separate it from the bulb, if seeds are to be taken from it, until the ovaries are yellow and beginning to open and show their seeds, which should be already black. Then they can be cut and put in a place where they are protected from sun and rain, and when the ovaries are quite dry the seed can be taken from them and very carefully kept (not wrapped up or covered) until the time for sowing them, about the middle of October. Growers who have no interest in preserving the seed believe it is a bad thing to exhaust their bulbs by leaving the seed to ripen on the plant. The earth that the seeds are thrown upon should be well prepared (I shall describe its composition presently).
The seed is visible enough to be spread about without the necessity of mixing it with sand, as is sometimes done with vegetable garden seeds. They must not be sown too thick, and about an inch deep. When it is beginning to turn cold they must be protected from the frost by a covering of manure, leaves, or tan. The seed, which begins soon to germinate, is very sensitive to heat and cold. The parts of the seed are not unlike a fruit. It is first covered by a strong black skin, and under this a fleshy substance. This contains an almond, within which is enclosed the germ; this develops in the same manner as in the seeds of all plants that are called by botanists "one lobed" or "monocotyledon." During growth this almond part of the seed detaches itself from its wraps.
When the grain is put into the ground in the month of October it swells, and the germ, piercing through the pericarp or fleshy part of the seed, begins to develop itself. The little leafy shoot which pushes upward is the part that botanists call the plumule, and the part which pushes from the central axis (or planrule)is called the radicle or little root. During the first year the little root is always tuberous or knotted. It does not yet draw sap from the earth. It is generally agreed among botanists that the plumule and radicle (the plant and little root) at this stage draw their nourishment from the cotyledon or seed-lobe, to which they are still joined. This lobe goes on nourishing the plant till the bulb has already taken form, and takes in nourishment from the earth (through its base).
The thin round leaf-shoot which comes up remains bent a whole year before it has gained sufficient strength to rise straight. The first year the root is only a thin thread; sometimes it grows very long and is full of knots, then it is organically diseased, and the bulb will be very weak and worthless. They often die when the root is thus deformed. To make a well-formed bulb the root should have only one knot at the place where it comes from the seed; upon this the bulb forms itself. At first it is composed of a single tunic, and this tunic is joined and completely closed on all sides.
At the end of one year (after sowing the seed), if the bulb were taken up, one would find this tunic lined with two other tunics exactly like it.
The bulbs being still very small, they exhaust the soil very little, so that the first year growers do not take the trouble to take them up. But an amateur, who raised a great many from seed, used to say he thought taking them up every year certainly assisted their growth.
After it has been eighteen months in the ground the bulb has gained a certain consistency; it is now composed of four tunics, each of which encloses it entirely, the outside tunic appearing brown and dry (as if the drying process had begun, for this outer one has to shrivel away in the earth next year). The leaf-shoot still looks thin and round like a rush, but it holds itself straight, and has gathered strength since last year. The second year (about the time it has to be taken up) it has lost its outside tunic, but has still three left, completely surrounding it, but within the inmost envelope the base of the leaf-shoot or fan (which now shows a double shoot) is already spreading and forming in the centre of the bulb a tunic, like the tunics of the proper (grown) bulb; that is to say, it wraps it only two-thirds of the way round its circumference. The roots have now strengthened. The following year they are yet stronger. The bulb casts off all its binders, the early tunics which enveloped it completely (like a bandage). After this it enters into its mature state, the leaves, instead of clinging together like a round rush, separate, slowly detaching themselves and taking the shape they are to preserve to the end, though every year they increase considerably.
From the time the bulb loses its first closed tunics it is able to produce its flower, which it never can do while it remains with closed tunics. The first flower has a long feeble stem, which bears one, two, or three small blossoms, but these are enough to show the sort of flower it is going to be. If it is single it will remain a single always, neither will its colour vary again, and it can be classed among the red, blue, or white of its kind, but it will grow more perfect and improve in height, size, and colour. If the flower turns out to be double, the growers are delighted, and then they will spare no pains in developing its beauty, for they know not what degree of perfection it may yet attain.
When the bulb is three years old (having a treble shoot, and having lost its last completely enveloping tunic) it possesses only the ordinary tunics, which are formed by the expansion at the base of the leaves (these envelop only two-thirds of the bulb).
The bulb, when four years old (having developed more perfect leaves and begun to produce flowers), is composed of about twenty tunics.
If the flower, during the fifth year, continues to develop and shows to advantage in colour, form, etc., the growers' hopes rise higher still, but they cannot tell even yet if the flower will fulfil its great promise.
A bulb which has grown too rapidly will sometimes throw out young bulbs (or offshoots) at four or five years old, but never before it has once, during the course of its life, put forth a flower. This fact is important to remember in regard to observations to be made later on, on the subject of vegetation.
In the ordinary course of nature the bulb does not arrive at its final state of perfection until its seventh year. The grower delights to note its yearly growth in grace and beauty, till at length it becomes précieuse, then he is fully repaid his care, and the kind is for ever fixed, and will never vary again, and it will produce young bulbs which will, in their turn, produce again, and all will perfectly resemble their first parent bulb (though it has happened very seldom indeed that flowers have changed in colour, but this will be explained).
Growers call the flowers they obtain by raising from seed "Conquests." They share and exchange among themselves these seeds of promise, and sell to each other the third quarter or half of the bulb productions, which, however, should not be parted with unless there are a certain number of young bulbs to be divided. The prices they pay for these invaluable seedlings would astonish an amateur. They enhance the value of the bulb, for which the fixed price is sometimes above 1000 florins. Some are worth as much again. Growers usually keep notes of the origin and date of bulbs.
Some hundred years ago double hyacinths were thought little of; they were almost unknown. Swertius, in 1620, gives a list of about forty kinds of hyacinths; none of them were double. The gardens of George Voorhelm belonged also to his grandfather, who had already tried raising hyacinths from seed, and whenever he made a Conquest, Pierre Voorhelm would reject any which seemed out of the ordinary, or out of proportion to the rest of his flowers, for in those days they took a pride in the formal and regular arrangements of their flower-beds. He took care, especially, to destroy double hyacinths when they appeared, without waiting to see what they might become if they were allowed to develop. He was only anxious to keep flowers which promised seed. It is certain that double flowers have not a seed-bearing quality; they are not formed for maturing the seed enclosed in the ovary, so that any flower without this particular good quality did not fail to be rejected. No one took the least pleasure in the idea of a double hyacinth; it was rather regarded as a monster (or freak of nature), just as at the present day nobody cares for a double tulip.
Pierre Voorhelm fell ill, and being quite unable to visit or attend to his plants until the hyacinth season was nearly over, he happened then to see a double hyacinth (the kind is now lost) which had been forgotten, and had not been thrown away as usual; it was very small, and he only liked it because it seemed to match very well with the single ones -- so he cultivated it with the rest and obtained bulbs from it. He found it was much admired by amateurs, who were ready to pay a good price for it. So he took to cultivating the double as well as the single, and soon began to be as anxious to find them among "Conquests" as before he was to get rid of them.
Of the double species the first known was named "Marie," this and the two kinds that followed are now lost. "Le Roi de la grande Bretagne" existed only seventy years -- this was rare and much sought after, and the price rose to many thousand florins. This bulb, imported to hot climates, grew infinitely better than in Haarlem; for it soon died in cold or damp spots. From this time great attention began to be paid to the cultivation of hyacinths raised from seed.
The number of "Conquests" has now become immense, and many more grow bulbs than in former days, and every grower makes his own catalogue, in which his "Conquests" are known under names which are kept in all the lists which are re-written every year. In this list there may be flowers of different colour bearing the same name -- such as "Gloria Mundi," which is classed with the blues; the same name re-occurs classed with reds and whites. Frequently double-flowering bulbs of different colour have the same name -- so that it is as well, when ordering a particular bulb, to specify and enter into details when writing the order. Then mistakes will be prevented, which are as distasteful to the grower as to the dissatisfied purchaser. Growers do not all agree in classing their bulbs, some for example classing among reds a hyacinth which another would call white with red heart, and which a third might call pink and white, or flesh colour. Besides which the exact shade or nuance differs perhaps in every garden -- and it is not so easy to class hyacinths in a way to satisfy everyone, any more than it is easy to produce a completely satisfactory Method of Botany. Seasons are variable, and colours of flowers are much affected by changes of weather. 1767 was g very disastrous season by reason of the cold north wind which prevailed in the early part of the year. Red hyacinths were infinitely poorer than the preceding year, which was a particularly favourable one to bulb growers.
One must make allowances for seasons and accidents, and one ought not to expect the bulbs sent off annually by the growers to be always equally good, for in some years they are more successful than in others -- also the same bulb which flowers splendidly, as a rule, may take it into its head to yield' a very poor flower, though it may be planted in the same soil -- between two others which are doing their best; one can see no cause why they should be so uncertain, except perhaps they pump in sap more vigorously at one time than another. It can be accounted for Sometimes by the fact that the bulb itself is feeling disposed to throw out young bulbs, and the sap is being drawn away from the flower-stalk -- or it may have suffered from a cold draught, when it was lying on the shelf in the winter -- or it may be it is feeling the damp.
CHAPTER V. -- ORGANS OF REPRODUCTION
The various species of hyacinths, though apparently different and distinct, are essentially alike. Bulbs of one sort differ very little from those of another -- the leaves are always alike, their stalks grow in the same way -- their blossoms, though infinitely varied, are arranged in the same regular order -- each connected with the stem by a little thread, called the pedicel.3 The double scarcely differs from the single, except in the blossom. We have already followed the gradual course of the growth of the bulb, and described its general composition. We will now go back to the single hyacinth, for in explaining its work of reproduction it is easier and more convenient to dissect than the double flower.
The calyx or corolla forms at the base (through its shape) a chamber or room in which the "ovary" is found, but detached from it. At the point where the calyx is narrowed in at the entrance of the ovary chamber are the stamens. The parts of the corolla (or divided sections which curl back in the hyacinth) are called petals.
The stamens are attached to the interior of the calyx, and from the base of the stamen to the pedicel (or little connecting stalk) runs a fine fibre (which takes the place of the filament which is detached in other flowers), and this is seen from the outside as a line of colour a little darker than the rest of the flower.
The ovary (in the chamber at the bottom of the calyx) is surmounted by the pistil, the narrow body of the pistil is called the stylus, and the head is the stigma.
The stamens of the hyacinth have no filaments, they are sessile within the calyx, and the anthers are also attached at their base (though there is the fine thread of darker colour to be seen running through the calyx extending from the stamen to the pedicel).
The stamen is covered, when ripe, with a yellow dust called pollen, this looks like little black grains when under a microscope -- they are little bags full of a kind of clear juice, these, when the stamens bend over and shed (as pollen), are caught by the stigma at the head of the pistil. This stigma, when seen under a microscope, is seen to be composed of very fine valvular cells, which can hold the seminal juice-the juice passes through the narrow channel of the stylus (or body of the pistil) into the centre of the ovary, which has an aperture so arranged as to let it in till it is full, when it closes again so completely that the seminal juice is held within till the time comes when the ovary is forced open by the ripening seed.
Before the flowers expand, and while they are still enveloped like a wheat ear in leafy bandages, the ovary is already furnished with eggs; but the seminal juice has not yet been deposited, the pistil not being formed enough to open its cells, but even while the flower is still in bud, the anthers let fall their pollen, and the pistil opens its cells, and no one seems to know exactly when it happens that the pollen explodes its little capsules of liquor or vapour or breath, which form the seminal juice.
Saint-Simon has a theory that the bees flying to and fro constantly over the flowers disturb the pollen, often carrying with them some of the pollen (containing seminal juice) from one flower to another, where it is deposited and received through the pistil into the ovary, and he suggests that this is the Cause why "Conquests" (i.e. hyacinths raised from seed) never bear any resemblance to the flower their seed is derived from. But this does not seem entirely to account for their infinite variety. The invariability of this rule (that no hyacinth has been known to produce its like by seed) seems to prove that variation is not subject entirely to accidents of this kind, for surely sometimes by accident there would come up the same flower as that from which the seed was taken. Some growers may have taken seed from hyacinths grown in hothouses, where the flower has been protected from bees and butterflies, and thus undisturbed the flower should have had seed which reproduced its own kind -- and why should this occur as an invariable rule among hyacinths, when other flowers more frequently reproduce their own kind than not, with them the variation (when their seed has been crossed by insects) is an accident.4
Curious experiments have been made with hyacinths.
Two different bulbs are to be chosen, blue and white, for instance. Cut them perpendicularly down nearly through the middle, but being careful to avoid cutting into their central shoots (i.e. the future flower-stalk), then join together the two larger halves containing the flower-shoot, thus making one bulb of them, so that the two flowers should appear as arising from one bulb. Then, with a little moss wound round the closed joins, the made-up bulb may be put into the earth like any other. This usually results in producing two stems stuck together back to back, with one skin around them both apparently; and on one side comes out white flowers, on the other red or blue. Sometimes the colours get mixed, the colour of one flower shaded with that of the other, very rarely do the stems grow separate.
None of these experiments seem to explain how it is that a single hyacinth can produce a double (by seed raising), though perhaps in ten thousand seeds only two or three will come up double flowered; nor how it is that the double can be redoubled (through seed), and that once redoubled, the bulb is constant in giving off young bulbs with double flowers, which never again degenerate into single; nor will a single, in its offshoots, ever become a double hyacinth.
CHAPTER VI. -- GENERAL
In the cultivation of hyacinths it is impossible to keep to any fixed rule. Not only must every country and climate make its own, but every hyacinth has its own ways and customs, its own special qualities and characteristics. The most distinguished of their species exact a great deal of attention, care, and management.
"François Ist" finds great difficulty in producing offshoots, and great care has to be taken of the young bulb, but when once arrived at full growth it is not as subject to disease of various kinds as are other bulbs, and it does not die easily. It is the only bulb that still continued to command a high price twenty-five years after its first appearance; 100 florins were paid for a single bulb.
"Rien ne me Surpasse" is one of the most perfect blue, but it has such wretched, weak, faded, even crumpled leaves, one would think the poor thing was ill, but notwithstanding it produces a handsome, healthy-looking flower.
"Passe non plus ultra" also looks very deplorable as to its leaves, they seem hardly able to hold up, and remain lying flat upon the ground, though quite green and well.
On the other hand, "Og Roi de Basan" shoots up its leaves so straight and tall, and so large, that they seem quite out of proportion to others, and the flower is an extraordinary height, overtopping all the rest. The "Theatre-Italien" is a good red, but it grows very short, and comes out before its leaves, so that its head may be nipped by the frost.
"Marquise de Bonnac" is a very delicate colour, but it gives way in the stem before the flower is fully out. The stems seems to fade and dry up, and the flower falls on its face, and this is a very tiresome habit. But it does not seem to damage the bulb, which flowers regularly every year, notwithstanding these little accidents. A famous florist told me it was because it had a bad circulation, and the sap hung on the sides of the bulb, instead of running up the stalk. "Alcibiades' and "Beau-regard" are also subject to such accidents; but they can be prevented by planting the bulbs in November, that is, a month later than other sorts. These kinds give off a number of young bulbs. The bulbs which multiply very little and slowly have generally better constitutions, and do not perish so easily. White, with red, purple, or violet hearts are very subject to decay. "Gloria Florum Suprema" perishes easily, and its offshoots perish with it, and this is peculiar to this hyacinth, for most of those that perish easily also multiply quickly. The kind that multiply fast are generally furnished with more roots than the others.
Growers are mostly agreed that bulbs succeed infinitely better if taken up from the ground every year (though it does seem contrary to nature). It often happens that a bulb, if left in the ground, does admirably the first and second years, and sometimes a third year it does well, but after this period it usually catches some disease which turns into an epidemic, killing all the bulbs in its neighbourhood; it is too late then to find a remedy, and if lifted it will only rot on the shelves, as it would have done in the earth. One knows insects are more numerous one year than another, and thus they too may cause epidemics.
Lifting the bulb is also a method of preserving the young bulb, which otherwise would perish and decay from damp if left all the year round -- or, as they are sometimes a foot or more below ground, they effort they make to force their shoots through that depth of earth is too much for them.
It has been observed that when the sap does not circulate freely in the bulb it is drawn up into the stem, and this is sometimes occasioned by overheating the room or greenhouse, -- then it grows tall and weakly, the flowers are thin and deformed. The more the channels through which the sap runs into the stem are dilated by too much heat, the tighter they close again when the sap has finished its action, and the bulb becomes thinner than it should be, and it is exhausted for the next year's growth and appears very languishing. One can see very well how this comes to pass when it is remembered that the next year's flower is actually contained in the base of this year's stem, therefore what weakens one weakens the other. If the bulb is very deep in the earth and the ground is hard, it cannot spread and enlarge itself with comfort, so the health of the bulb requires it to be lifted every year. Besides the necessity of separating and preserving the young bulbs which have to be replanted, there is yet another advantage to be gained in lifting, for then there is an opportunity of taking away decayed bulbs before the disease is able to spread further through contact with others.
Having given some ideas on the cultivation of hyacinths in general, perhaps it is as well to give in some detail an account of the particular (or individual) care and attention bestowed upon their bulbs by the Haarlem growers, and perhaps some hyacinth lovers may feel drawn to imitate their spirit. Haply if they meet with the same difficulties they may benefit by their experience and observations, and thus obstacles may be surmounted that stand in the way of the development of the ideal flower. These obstacles are often the result of soil, climate, and inexperience.
As a general rule, hyacinths require a light soil, which easily lets the water run through, but at the same time such a soil is soon washed out, and it thus in a short time loses its good qualities and richness. The sulphurous and oily qualities in the soil, that the hyacinth delights abundantly to suck out of the earth, would be washed away or evaporate speedily in such soil, even if the bulb itself did not actually exhaust the spot where it has grown, this is the chief reason why growers change their bulbs year by year. Damp is death to bulbs. In a damp soil bulbs can never be preserved for any length of time. The two general rules, -- Choice of light soil, Avoidance of damp, are the very foundations of bulb culture. The "couches" or "beds" made by florists for their finest hyacinths are remade every year, they are also protected by caisses and layers of manure from the cold in winter, and they are shaded from the hot sun in spring by canvas awnings. The old soil (taken from the hyacinth beds) is carried to the garden borders, where other flowers are grown, such as tulips, lilies, Fritillaries, etc. The following year hyacinths are replaced in these borders, and succeed therein marvellously, -- thus year by year the same earth bears alternately hyacinths and other flowers. If the reader's patience is not exhausted entirely I must ask him to bear out a little longer, for I cannot without entering into very minute details give any intelligible idea of the qualities necessary to provide the sap with the kind of nourishment it seeks in the soil after the bulb is put into the ground.
In Haarlem they take two years to prepare the compost, or composed soil, which suits hyacinths so well. The first year a store of leaves are gathered together and laid in considerable heaps, so large that while they are rotting and becoming fit for use the sun cannot penetrate, for if they were spread about the sun would cause the salts and oils contained in the decayed leaves to evaporate, for this reason the heaps are not to be in places where they are exposed to the sun, nor in a damp place where water can sink in or stagnate. Growers do not gather in all kinds of leaves, they have observed that oak, chestnut, beech, and the leaves of the plane tree (which is now becoming common in Holland), and others of like nature, do not dissolve easily into earth; while the leaves of elm, wych-elm and birch, etc., are chosen because their loose and fibrous tissue dissolve more readily into soil.
In the same manner they lay up a heap of cow-manure, which is left to ferment en masse. Every country has its customs, and the Dutch customs make a real difference in the quality of the materials employed. All over Holland cows are kept in stalls from November to May only, and during this tithe they do not eat grass. All the summer they remain in the open, night and day, in the fields, so that manure is not kept or taken up in the summer months. In the winter, when the cows are fed on nothing but dry food, the manure is of quite another quality from the summer manure, when cows have grass. This may be useful to note for those who live in countries where manure is kept all the year round. Cows are tethered in stalls in so narrow a compass that one can hardly conceive how they can exist like this. They stand on a kind of platform between two trenches, before and behind them; in the front trench their food is put, which they can only get at by pushing their heads between boards, which also prevent them from reaching too far and pulling out the food, where it would be trampled under their feet. The second trench, which is deeper, is behind them to receive the manure, which is taken away and heaped up in a dry place, where it can easily drain and where the rain can also run off, for no water or wet is allowed to settle in or near the heap. As no straw whatever enters into the composition of this manure, it is not at all like the kind collected in other countries. I do not know if this is the reason, or why it is that in England, especially round London, hyacinth growers avoid using cow-manure as much as possible, the soil there being so stiff and rich that it suits them better to make it a little poorer, with an admixture of sand, than to heat it even with cow-manure, which is the lightest kind of manure there is. First a heap of leaf-manure, a second heap of cow-manure, and a third heap of sand is now made of sand brought from the dunes, or it can be dug out of the very ground beneath to the depth of some feet. Though all the soil about Haarlem and its neighbourhood is mainly sand, especially near the dunes, where most of the bulb fields are, yet they prefer to fetch sand from a distance rather than take any from the surface of their own ground. This sand should be as carefully examined as is the manure, so that, now that I think of it, I must enter into further details, which will be thought unnecessary by some people, but others will be glad to follow the spirit of our inquiry.
The nature of the soil in Holland proves that the country has undergone great geological changes, apart from the continual encroachments of the sea.
It seems that at a very distant period, perhaps before or after the Deluge, the country must have been covered over with forests, as were Germany and Gaul in later times.
Either in the great Deluge of Sacred Writ, or during one of the partial deluges that men of science speak of (but of which no one seems to have any positive knowledge), these trees must have been thrown down and laid on the ground in the direction of east to west, in such a manner that where they fell they form strata (or layers), which time has reduced to a thickness of six or eight inches at the most.
It may be that this layer of trees was at first exposed to the air, or (as is more likely) was for some time covered by the sea, which, depositing sand, pressed and consolidated it into the mass which we now see, and which is found in all parts of Holland and Zealand, and is known under the name of Darry or Derry.
It is very easy to perceive that it is old wood decayed into the earth and reduced to the loose consistency of a sort of brown charred coal. In some parts bits of the wood have been preserved whole and unchanged.
In the Bailey of Amstelveen, near Amsterdam, bits of wood are often disinterred which has still "heart" enough to be used as ordinary wood. Between Alphen and Leyden are to be found in several places whole tree trunks, ten or twelve feet long. The derry matter is very substantial, and it is very inflammable; it also holds water, so that it does not run through from the surface of the peat to the water in the soil below it. In Zealand, where it is easily taken up, it is forbidden under penalty of death5 to carry away the peat, because the water underneath, which it retains, would do considerable damage in the island.
As we now know that piles and blocks of wood can last 2000 years in the earth without rotting, so we may conclude that these trees (which now compose the derry or turf) must have been much longer undergoing the various operations of nature which resulted in producing this change. No tree roots can penetrate this derry, and wherever sand does not cover it over a certain depth, no vegetation can grow. Water falling on the peat is held there, having no means of escape, and the sand on the top is, therefore, always moist and fresh in proportion as it is near the derry. If one digs a little hole in this ground, the water which "fattens" the sand collects in a moment and fills up the hole which has been made, and this becomes a running spring. These sort of springs exist all over Holland, and they generally go by the name of sand-wells. They are kept supplied only by rain, or by the water which filters down through the sand from the dunes, and this often to a great distance.
If bulb roots were to reach down to within a foot of this layer of peat they would be spoilt, and the bulbs would perish. The depth of the sand-layer over the peat is unequal and different in parts. By measuring it they test the value of the ground, and not less is the value measured by the length of time the sea has withdrawn from the surface. There is no doubt this sand is from the sea-bottom, whether it was the sea's action that brought it, or whether it has been blown and driven by the wind. The dunes have so often shifted that a knowledge of the variations due to the shifting of the sand in the dunes is enough to account for sand-layers, for it can be driven very far indeed by wind from the sea.
A little while ago the village of Sheveling, near the Hague, was surrounded by the dunes, which were at that time some distance from the church, now it is much nearer, the church cannot have moved. On the same coast the mouth of the Rhine has been choked with sand, and the sea now covers the castle of Bret, facing Catwick-sur-Mer. The castle can still be seen at certain seasons at low tide. The sea has remade other dunes, half a league farther inland. All along the coast near Haarlem, beyond the canal which connects Haarlem with Leyden, the main road cuts through these dunes in several places. In the island of Walcheren, in Zealand, at very low tide can be seen vestiges of the ancient town of Domburg, where they fish up statues of Nehellenia, a heathen goddess, and also early Roman inscriptions.
In the present day dunes 100 feet high separate the new Domburg from the one invaded by the sea, and the Zealanders, through their marvellous and inventive industry, have succeeded not only in fortifying themselves against encroachments from the sea, but have made very extraordinary dykes, like the one at West Cappel, which you cannot see when you are standing upon it, as it is nothing but a very long sloping bank or glacis of timberwork, but the slope is so gradual that the only resistance the water meets with is the long journey it has to go to reach to the summit of the dyke, which, at its level, is much higher than the sea.6 But besides this they covered miles of the sea-shore with platted straw matting, which they plat on the shore itself, -- this is to prevent the sea from carrying the sand away from its own shores. These mats have to be renewed almost yearly.
The sands of Haarlem are all more or less of this nature, and contain saline and sulphurous particles of matter; the under stratum of peat or derry prevent these from being absorbed into the ground. The sand also contains particles which collect in some places and form a very thin stratum of hard black matter, like that with which some minerals are coated, and this is not less injurious to vegetation than is the derry.
The great success the Dutch growers have had in cultivating bulbs which cannot be successfully propagated elsewhere is very much due to the presence of this sand, deposited by the sea on a matter which, fortunately, water cannot penetrate.
To return to the three heaps, -- sand, cow-manure, and leaf-mould, -- the sand is placed in large heaps to "ripen," rather perhaps to lose some of the moisture. The growers from the three compose one general mass, which they arrange in the following order: First, they make a layer of sand; second, of manure; and third, of leaf-mould eight or ten inches deep; they then begin again making more layers in the same order, until their mass is six to seven feet high. The last layer is manure, but as this is apt to harden in the sun, they throw a little sand on the top. When this compound has fermented, six months, sometimes rather longer, it is mixed up and another heap is made, which is, however, again unmade and thoroughly remixed. When this soil has remained a few weeks to settle, it is carried to the beds, where it is laid to the depth of something like three feet.
George Voorhelm, in his book upon hyacinth culture, says that this manure should be composed of three-sixths of cow-manure, two-thirds of sand, and one-sixth of leaf-mould or of tan, and he for his part preferred fresh manure to that which had been kept a year (to ferment?). He especially warns amateurs against using horse, mule, pig, or sheep manures; also he cautions them against using mud or cold earth drawn from wells, or basins where the standing water and mud have to be occasionally cleaned out; also against any powdered stuff or manures picked up with dust from the street. He quotes persons who compose their soil of tan (which has already been in use and nearly lost its heat) with cow-manure and leaf-mould, using no sand at all.
When the soil is brought to the flower-beds they put the said quantity beneath the bulbs, making the earth quite flat and even, without pressure, and placing the bulbs upon the earth, not embedding them. Then they are looked over to see that the bulbs are arranged in the proper order or according to diagrams marked out for them. When their places have been fixed, more soil is brought to put over them, great care being taken to let the earth fall lightly on the bulbs, not to disturb their position. The last addition of earth is generally not more than three to four inches deep. In cases where the bulb has to be brought forward in its growth, or else kept back -- and is therefore put at a greater or lesser depth in the earth -- the gardener, in the latter case, places more soil under the bulb to raise it higher, and this is a much better method of putting in bulbs than making a hole with a dibble, or, as some do, thrusting the bulb itself into the earth with no tool and raking some earth over it, for this plan, besides hardening the earth all round the bulb (the hole forming a sort of gutter which holds water!) also runs a risk of bursting the bulb, which may be already showing roots, or young bulbs hidden within might be knocked off without its being perceived. The same method is used in planting bulbs in garden borders. The surface of the earth is taken off and laid on one side, the bulbs are placed in rows, and are very carefully re-covered with the soil which was laid upon the side.
The frames used over show flower-beds should be raised not more than a foot above the earth, and not less than half a foot. If too high, the air dries the roots; if too low, the damp (from the vapour) may reach them. The back of the frame should be buried rather deep, so that when it is necessary to cover the flowers with planks, the frame will be able to support them, or planks must be put at the back and sides, fitting into each other, upon which those which form the roof over the flowers can rest. The frames should be slanting from the back downwards to the front, to let the rain run off and prevent it from dripping into the bed. If the cold is very intense, the planks may be covered with manure to prevent the frost from penetrating beneath. If the season is a fair one, the flowers may be given a little air; but in cold seasons it is a risky thing to do, because the early bedding plants are exceedingly tender, and the heat of the manure, or whatever is provided to shelter them from cold air, causes a damp vapour to rise inside the frames, and as this cannot evaporate it falls back upon the flowers, covering them with a little dew, which, if the cold air were admitted, would freeze directly. It only takes an instant for young buds to freeze, then the flowers come out, looking dried up, with burnt tips. When the cold weather is past the manure is taken off, and air is admitted to the beds for a few hours in the daytime, care being taken to cover up again at nightfall. The manure which serves to protect the bulbs from frost also brings forward young shoots, so that they begin to show earlier in hot-beds than in garden borders. The slowest and latest sorts begin the earliest to sprout. They are therefore purposely not planted so deep in the ground, that they may get more quickly warmed by sun and air, so it is quite natural that their buds should pierce through earlier -- but the difficulty the sap has in penetrating and circulating through the very compact structure of these bulbs makes it very difficult to get them to flower in good time with other sorts. Growers have to use their skill not only in guarding flowers which are beginning to show from frost, but also from strong winds, damp, and everything that can do them injury. One year rats carried away and stored by hundreds in their holes the bulbs in the gardens of Van Zomped at Overween, -- although they had a stream to cross to get at them. Growers must be au fait with every possible eventuality, and must foresee and prevent every possible mischief. They must know exactly the time by night or day when it is proper to cover or uncover their flower-beds. Their chosen blooms are covered with tents of canvas, beneath which they can conveniently walk.
Besides these tents, over the most delicately-complexioned flowers little parasols are arranged. These are mounted on little rods, which stick in the ground, and quite protect the flowers, which last several days longer with growers who give them this protection, and keep their colour better. When the flowers first begin to expand, our florists (who work on the principle of never watering) protect them from rain as carefully as they do auriculas. When they begin to make a show of blossoms they powder the sand-beds with a light mould, in order to make the colours look more brilliant against the dark brown background. They tie the stalks to little wire rods, painted green, leaving the ties loose, so that none of the blossoms are caught and broken when the flower pushes up in its growth. The pedicel is very delicate before the blossom is formed, so that the slightest thing can easily break it. When the single hyacinths are in bloom the florists open their gardens to the public. A wonderful sight presents itself on first entering the gardens, vistas of alleys with flowers of every variety, and kind, and colour, cut by borders and beds which contain each one kind of flower only. Hyacinths are in the greatest number. Early tulips, narcissi, anemones, and others are laid out in successive order. The effect is surprising. Never, when they are once selected and placed in position, does a grower ever touch his bulbs again, he dare not disturb them once they are planted, but if a bulb dies or refuses to grow they may possibly embed a flower in a pot in its place; it is even permitted to put a flower like it in a glass vase close to the leaves of the lost blossom, but they never attempt to take out a weak or unsuccessful bulb in order to substitute another. The flowers should be arranged according to gradation, that is, the tall specimens behind; the short in front; the colours as varied and as brilliant as possible.
The beds have a much more brilliant effect if two flowers of the same colour are put together, in pairs; some plant each kind thus, double, throughout the bed. The chief thing in arranging flower-beds is to manage that all the flowers should be out in full flower at the same time. It is a very difficult art, but the Haarlem bulb growers are able to accomplish it. Every bulb has its own particular habit of growth, one will flower early and another late, there may be the difference of a whole month between them.
People come miles to see these gardens, which are in bloom all April and part of May. Single hyacinths begin flowering towards the end of March, and last in flower for about twenty days, if the season be favourable. Single hyacinth beds are usually placed alternately with double, and the effect is more brilliant. Single hyacinths grow more thickly, there are sometimes fifty blossoms on one stalk, and very often several stalks on each plant. The red-single are a more brilliant red than are the red-double, and single blues have much the most delicate shade of colour.
About the 20th of April the hyacinths begin to be at their best, the 25th and 26th are ordinarily the days when they are in perfection and in their full glow. By the 4th or 5th of May they are going over, and the later sorts are beginning.
In Haarlem they are too carefully attended to suffer much from the weather, their cultivators being very industrious, and watch over them, arranging for the protection even of the most ordinary kinds, for none are neglected.
When a new piece of land is taken for cultivation, they begin by trenching it six feet deep, and if they come across a bed or layer of derry, they do not fail to take it away. In gardens which have been a long time under cultivation peat or derry is not found, for it is injurious to vegetation. Pure sand is usually found to some depth, but they try to dig down below the sand to the earth and dig up about a foot of it to mix with the soil. The sand corrects the effect of the cow-manure which is put in, a layer of seven or eight inches deep (without straw), over the entire surface of the ground, which is then worked in with a spade. They mix up the manure as much as possible, so that when well worked in it is to be found to a depth of one foot below the surface.
It is not a good thing to plant hyacinths the first year in the newly manured soil; they usually leave an interval of one year before they put in hyacinths again, and in the intermediate years they cultivate tulips, jonquils, narcissi, lilies, crocuses, fritillaries, crown imperials, martagon or mountain lilies, irises, and other tuberous plants or bulbs which they keep in quantities; they take care to work the ground well every year, this brings the earth which was below, at the roots of the last year's plants, to the surface.
The earth dug, trenched, and enriched (for it must be borne in mind it is nearly entirely sand) remains for five or six years without need of manure. After this space of time it has to be worked all over again, dug as deeply as before and manured, if possible adding more pure sand, which is found by digging a very deep way down. In winter the beds are covered with tan or manure in proportion to the strength of the cold. Growers like the frost to penetrate as far as within an inch of the bulbs. If it goes farther, it freezes the cluster of buds; and if it reaches the roots, the bulb is lost beyond redemption. But such a misfortune seldom occurs, for growers know how to protect them by increasing the thickness of manure or tan covering. Some heap up the fallen snow over the beds, believing it is good for bulbs, as it is for nearly all other plants, especially for corn and oats; while others take away the snow rather than add to it. Each has good reasons, and much depends on the time of year, for if it is late snow and the hyacinths are beginning to put out leaves, a quantity of snow may be hurtful and cause a fermentation of the sap, which may cause the bulb to decay.
After the cold weather is over the hyacinth buds begin to pierce through the manure, and then it can be taken off, and there is nothing more to be done after that but just to pull up any weeds that make their appearance. Growers either leave the flowers to fade or else cut them off, they believe it makes no difference which they do. Some, when the stalks are left uncut, strip off the blossoms with their ripening seed-vessels, thinking it preserves the sap within the bulb; others cut the leaves half-way down, for they grow very long and lengthy when the flower is dead. Both these methods are clean contrary to the principles of the art of cultivation. Still, stripping the blossoms does little harm in comparison with the harm done by cutting the leaves, which have a most important function to perform, for they now take on themselves the work of the dried-up roots and feed the bulb, and they breathe in through their leaves the particles of air most suited for the plant's nourishment. The leaves are then entirely maintaining the plant and keeping the sap in circulation. When the fans or long leaves begin to fade and dry, the bulb is then pulled up out of the earth -- with the hand, as much as possible, for fear the spade or fork should injure the young offshoots. The leaves are then cut off altogether, and the bulb is replaced in the earth on its side, being covered up again with an inch or two of very light soil, such as we described -- the bulbs are left about a month or two in this state. When the time comes for them to be finally taken up, a fine dry day is chosen. The bulbs are then left out in the open air for a few hours. (If the sun is too hot, it will make them "boil," as the gardeners say, and the sun can kill them as surely as the frost.) They are then placed on sieves, where they are lightly shaken to separate from them the earth which sticks to them, the roots are carefully removed -- carefully, for the sake of the young bulbs (or offshoots) -- and put away on the bulb-house shelves.
All growers proceed very much in the same way, but those who do not follow merely mechanically the trade methods, know that every bulb likes a separate treatment, and they do not take up all the bulbs in one bed on the same day -- they leave the lazy ones, which are slow to ripen, longer in the ground, and they don't cut the leaves of the quickly growing ones quite so soon. When taking up their bulbs, they judge the quantity of sand to be left to cover them (in the drying process), according to the need of each one. Experience having taught that a slow bulb which takes long to develop gains warmth (and the fermentation of the sap is hastened) by letting it "cook," as they say, in the sun. On the contrary, if it is a quickly ripening variety, they keep it much less time in the oven (that is, under sand in the sun). These have a little more sand over them, and are stored a little sooner in the bulb house. One grower said he had for fourteen years planted a Yranffois Ist and taken it out every year exact]y in the same state as he had put it in, it had not changed in form or size, nor had it given a single offshoot. Another said he kept a Due de Bourgogne thirty years in the same way. G. Voorhelm said he had known a bulb look the same for fifty years, but he did not mention whether it had ever given offshoots or not.
In the end of June, or about that time, bulbs are put away into bulb houses. The houses should be perfectly dry, inside and out, for damp is very injurious -- the houses should be thoroughly well ventilated, the wind allowed to blow through. It is better if the bulb house be made to open on three sides. When the bulbs have been sometime stored on the shelves, they are cleaned; they then go through a medical examination, and if there are any weak or sickly, they are separated from the others. The evil, if it exists, can be detected by cutting the bulb at the place where the tkns or leaves come off. If the circle of tunics looks quite healthy, with no stains or spots upon them, there is no fear of disease -- there is none if there is no outward mark of decay anywhere to be seen;7 but if there is the smallest spot or mark, the knife must cut clown to the root of the evil. Amputation does not kill the bulb, and it is the surest remedy. As some of these diseases are contagious, they can be communicated to others even in the ground, where they are not so closely packed as they are upon the shelves therefore it is necessary to take care to examine them thoroughly in order to prevent contagion. The nature of these diseases and their cause is not yet known. The best remedy is amputation of the diseased parts, and many growers remove everything that has the least appearance of decay. The great art (and experience alone can teach this) is to know how to dry the cut wound without exhausting the sap in the bulb, and to know just the time to put it back in earth, -- the earlier it is done and the more carefully the operation is performed the more likely the bulb will be saved. The most common disease is an outlet of sap between the tunics. Another is produced by small green-flies, which are probably deposited as eggs. Green-fly and centipedes are the most commonly to be seen. Bulbs left for a long time in the same place are sure to contract diseases -- this is one of the chief reasons why growers are for ever changing them (even the common sorts), and are always renewing the soil or putting the flowers in different places alternately with others. When the growers are ready to replant their bulbs, they clean them again, taking away the outer red skin or tunics, which are now dried up, and keeping those adhering to the bulb, for it would be harmful' to a degree to take them away. They put aside the young bulbs which are strong enough to be separated from the parent bulb. The method of planting again has been described. I must add that show-beds should be chosen in sunny spots. Hyacinths cannot bear to be in the shade, and they must not be put under trees; but as they also suffer from wind, it is a good thing to have trees not far off to break the wind.
In conclusion, it would be a good thing if amateurs were not quite so prodigal with their bulbs. They grow them in pots or in glass during the winter, and it is usually their custom, when the flowers are dead to throw the bulbs away, supposing them to be good for nothing when they have blossomed once. Instead of that, they should be left in the glass jar or flower-pot till the leaves are likewise dead, then they can be put for half a day in moderately hot sun to dry, and afterwards placed in earth on their sides, as is done with other bulbs, covering them lightly with sandy earth, and taking them up in the same way; when in the autumn they are planted there will be no difference between them and the other bulbs. If they are round and full of sap when they are taken up, they can be used again in glass or pots in the house a second year, if not, it is better to leave them in the open ground. But as it is sometimes frosty weather when the bulbs are taken from the jars, it is better to put them away at once in the green-house, covered with a little sand, and wait till fine weather comes to put them outside for a month or five weeks in the earth, preparatory to taking them to the bulb-house shelves -- to plant before the rest.
Hyacinths can be also grown in pots filled with moss, well pressed down and kept sufficiently moist. If grown in water, rain-water is best.
Bulbs increase so rapidly that a grower who takes a little trouble to cultivate, let us say about 300, will find himself in a few years possessor of several thousand, which he does not care to keep. He will also have the satisfaction of making Conquests with seeds he has himself sown, and by exchanging these seedlings he can procure for himself rare and costly kinds, which he cannot buy; he is thus able to amuse himself with a collection which affords him much pleasure, and he is also able to bestow some upon his friends. He may never have been in the neighbourhood of Haarlem, he may never have learnt so many details as are here put forth, in the hope that they may prove useful to many a lover of flowers.
George Voorhelm, in the preface to his treatise on hyacinth culture, encourages men of other nations to cultivate the hyacinth, and to sow seeds, and, in his opinion, it would be better that the Dutch should meet with rivals of other nationalities, for if all produced good flowers, they would be able to supply each other reciprocally. He thinks it a pity no other nation should have attempted to second the Dutch in a work which reveals so wonderfully the many mysteries of nature as that of the culture of the hyacinth.
Maximilien Henri, Marquis de Saint-Simon, wrote Des Jacinthes, de leur anatomie, reproduction, et culture; also Histoire dela guerre des Alpes, ou Campagwe de 1744; Histoire de la guerre des Bataves et des Romains.
Saint-Simon, born 1720; died 1799 at Utrecht. This Marquis de
Saint-Simon was uncle to Claude Henri, Comte de Saint-Simon, founder of
the sect called Saint-Simoniennes. I think the Marquis was nephew of
the Duc de Saint-Simon, author of the Mémoires of Louis XIV.
1. Unless blue blood was spilt.
2. No longer in existence.
3. The calyx or flower-cup, being coloured or petaloid in its nature, is now called the corolla, but the old-fashioned word is here used -- the pedicel is the little stalk which attaches] the flower to the stem (or peduncle).
4. One feels disinclined to believe Saint-Simon is quite accurate in his theory, that the variations in kind and colour of hyacinths raised by seed are entirely due to the interference of insects, for in the case of bees, it has been observed by certain men of science that bees invariably prefer to visit flowers, not-only of one kind but of one colour during the course of one journey. That thus a bee, beginning on a certain white flower, will choose out these white flowers, leaving out every coloured one of that or of another species, until, laden with honey, it returns to the hive. (It may be, bees lose their heads when it is a question of hyacinths.)
5. Two hundred years ago.
6. Two hundred years ago.
7. Except new disease.
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