Latin: Muscari armeniacum ‘Estha’
Height: 6in (15cm)
Location: full/half sun
Certain varieties of garden plants just exude class, managing by some magic to transcend the merely ‘novel’ or ‘interesting’. This variety of grape hyacinth, ‘Estha’, is one such darling — at least in my opinion. She is a strong stemmed, tall variety, standing a good six inches (15cm) and topped with large flower spikes made up of many individual florets. Quizzically, the label at the nursery claimed the flowers would be “pale white” — a colour I found hard to imagine — but in the event they turned out to be a pale Wedgewood-blue, at least from a distance.
Anyhow, on the basis of the proposed ‘pale-white’ description I purchased six small pots to fill a bare patch in our white garden. When the buds finally opened to reveal their not-pure-white colouration I wondered for a few days if I might have to move them; I needn’t have worried, however, as the effect en-mass turned out to be sufficiently white — a palest blue icy white. We look out on this little patch of spring colour from our kitchen so we see them often and they certainly catch the eye. Wifey loves them, so despite the dubious trade description we’ve decided they’re a keeper: Definitely pale white if anyone asks.
As you can see in the photo above, they are nicely filling a bare patch of soil between several box balls. Later in the year white dahlias will sprout here, but they are late into growth and by then the grape hyacinths will have died down and gone dormant — at least that’s the plan; We’ll see if they can co-exist happily. I hope so, as I’d like these beauties to settle in and come back year after year. If they are anything like the grape hyacinths on the green roof they will increase and make dense drifts in coming years. Another thing to notice in the photo above is their leaves: flatter and broader than the more common varieties. Oh, and they’re lightly scented too. Classy, eh? Here it is super-close up:
Given a spot that gets some direct sun grape hyacinths are generally reliable and trouble-free. They flower from April to May. The foliage dies back in the summer, returning in late autumn where it overwinters before their next spring display. After flowering the pale brown seed heads can provide interest for a while, or you can remove them, but leave the foliage until it dies back so the bulbs can build up stores of energy for next year’s flowering. After a couple of years, the colony should bulk up enough to be lifted and divided, so with patience they are an easy plant to spread around the garden.