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MUSCARI - Grape Hyacinth

Hardy spring-flowering bulbs which grow wild in southern Europe and Asia Minor; they belong to the Lily family, Liliaceae. The name is derived from rnuscus, musk, and refers to the smell of the flowers of some kinds.

Spring-flowering Bulbs. The Grape Hyacinths are very attractive little bulbs which are in full beauty in March and April; they grow 6-12 in. high, and bear grapelike clusters of flowers on erect stems; the flowers are chiefly of blue coloring. They thrive in ordinary, well-tilled garden soil, and are of easy cultivation. Before planting the bulbs in heavy, clayey land, it is an advantage to mix in sand freely; the addition of leaf mold or compost also renders the ground more porous and more suitable for these bulbs.

Splendid for Naturalizing. The Muscari are not so suitable for planting in formal flower beds as many other bulbs, for they form large, leafy masses which become untidy; they are seen at their best in the less formal parts of the garden, as, for instance, in open spaces among shrubs, on the outskirts of the rock garden, on grassy banks, and in half-wild places. There they will flourish and spread, by means of self-sown seeds as well as by offsets, and annually furnish a feast of bloom.

Color Schemes with Grape Hyacinths and Flowering Shrubs. The Grape Hyacinths provide an admirable ground covering beneath some of the spring-flowering shrubs, particularly the Muscari comosum monstrosum, the Feather Hyacinth. Its flowers are sterile, and consist of narrow bluish- violet filaments, carried in a large inflorescence.

Golden Bell or Forsythia, and the Star Magnolia, M. stellata: the former has yellow, and the latter, white flowers, and the blue of the Grape Hyacinth associates perfectly with both of them. Grape Hyacinths are delightful also when massed beneath one of the pink-flowered ornamental Cherries.

Bulbs Must Be Planted Early. To ensure a satisfactory display of bloom during the first spring, it is necessary to plant the bulbs as early as possible in the autumn, for they start into growth far sooner than most other spring-flowering bulbs. They should be set in the ground in August or early September, preferably; their is one of the best bulbs for naturalizing and for association with spring-flowering shrubs. Another fine kind is the blue-flowered M. botryoides. There are also white and pink forms of M. botryoides.

The Tassel Hyacinth, M. comosum, bears a large spike of urn-shaped fertile flowers, above which are nonseeding flowers in a terminal cluster, the color being a mixture of blue and green. Even more striking is the Feather Hyacinth (M. comosum monstrosum), with all the flowers sterile and the inflorescence consisting of a mass of bluish-violet filaments carried in a dense, branched tuft 12 in. or more tall, in May.

The Musk Hyacinth, M. moschatum, 6-8 in., is worth growing for the sake of its fragrant, purplish-blue flowers; the variety named flavum, which bears yellow flowers flushed with purple, is also fragrant and is recommended.

Other cultivated kinds include M. latifolium, producing a solitary leaf and spike, 9 in. tall, leaves will then appear above ground in a few weeks. If planting is delayed until late autumn or early winter, the bulbs will have little chance to become well rooted before the cold weather sets in, and their chances of providing a first rate show of bloom during the first year will be jeopardized.

How Deep to Plant. The bulbs should be set about 3 in. apart and at such a depth that the tops are covered by 2 in. of soil. They may be left undisturbed for many years until they become so crowded that they fail to bloom freely.

When it becomes necessary to lift and separate the bulbs, the work should be done as soon as the leaves have turned yellow. The clumps should then be taken up and separated into single bulbs. The latter should be graded in sizes before they are replanted; the smaller ones could then be grown for a year in a nursery border and the larger ones set out in their permanent places.

The Chief Kinds. The most brilliantly colored of all the Grape Hyacinths is Muscari armeniacum (Heavenly Blue); the flower stems reach a height of 8-9 in., and the grapelike clusters of bright blue flowers, on erect stems, provide glorious groups of color in the spring months. This of deep blue flowers; M. paradoxum, 6 in., flowers a combination of blue-black and green; M. racemosum, the Starch Hyacinth, 6 in., dark purple, plum-scented; and M. Tubergenianum, 8 in., rich blue.

For the Cool Greenhouse. The Grape Hyacinths are suitable for cultivation in pots in cool greenhouses, where they will be in full beauty in March. The bulbs should be set in pots of sandy, loamy soil in September and kept in a cold, shady frame for 5-6 weeks until the pots are full of roots, or they may be placed out of doors on a paved or asphalt path and covered with old, sifted ashes, sand or peat moss. When well rooted, the plants should be placed in the greenhouse or brought into a sunny, cool sunroom. When indoors they need watering freely.

After they are through blooming the pots may be stood outdoors and kept watered until the foliage dies naturally, then the bulbs may be taken up and stored until fall when they may be planted in the outdoor garden.

For Bowl Cultivation. Muscari may also be grown in bowls of fiber in the home. Care must be taken to keep them as cool as possible and to set them in the lightest position. In fact, when growth has started, the bowls of bulbs should be placed out of doors whenever the weather is mild; otherwise the leaves will become unduly long and untidy, and spoil the appearance of the display when the blooms are out. A location where the night temperature is 40-50 degrees and the day temperature 50-60 degrees is best. Increasing Your Stock. As Grape Hyacinths produce seeds freely, these may be used to increase the stock of any particular kind. They should be gathered as soon as they are ripe in summer and sown at once, in drills half an inch or so deep, on a border in fine soil; or scattered broadcast where they are wanted to grow.


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