Friday, March 19, 2010

hyacinth: bean, bloom, britcom

The hyacinth bean is new to me this year, but the bloom and the BritCom, starring Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced BOO-kay) are old friends. (Please do check out these picture links! They present a great progression of colors.)

Mentioned in my 
seed stories, part 3, the hyacinth bean (HB) is not really a bean but a member of the pea family -- fabaceae. My packet contained only ten seeds, of which I gave five to John. On March 1, I planted my five in biodegradable jiffy pots.* The seeds looked just like this, essentially a black-eyed pea with the colors reversed. All the jiffy pots went outdoors only a couple of days after planting, possibly a mistake since the nights were really cold then.

Alas! Only one HB seed has germinated so far. Now I wish I'd planted only two or three -- or kept them inside while the others went out. After all, HB's natural habitat is mostly the tropical parts of Africa and Asia. We live and learn.

While HB lags,
Hyacinthus orientalis  (HO) is flourishing in the front yard. It's a well-naturalized garden variety hyacinth with loosely packed, bell-shaped blue flowers, generally not more than twelve to a stalk. Fancier varieties, used for forcing indoors and mass plantings in well manicured beds, produce tight clusters of flowers in a wide range of colors. If I divide the HO bulbs next fall as planned, I may get more bells per bulb.

HO starts to open up as
Freesia is almost past its prime, so there's a sort of changing of the guard in process. HO is taller and straighter,  and the unopened buds look like grape hyacinths on stilts. They provide an interesting contract as they rise above floppy Freesias and the even floppier leaves of Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). Star of Bethlehem will end my parade of spring bulbs and leave the surrounding ground morning glory (convulvulus mauritanicus) to cover its subsiding leaves.

Hyacinth Bucket 
(pronounced BOO-kay) is a character in the BBC comedy Keeping Up Appearances (KUA), originally broadcast from 1990 to 1995 and re-run (I hope perennially) on PBS. What does this have to do with the aforementioned HB and HO? It's just a word association thing, and word association, it seems, is the governing principle of this blog. I can't think of hyacinth (the flower or bean) without thinking of Hyacinth (the character), who instructs her husband Richard to "Smile more when you're gardening, Richard!" The idea is for Richard to look like he enjoys gardening (which he doesn't), so that the neighbors will think the Buckets can afford a gardener but don't hire one because Richard prefers to do it himself.

Looking up links on KUA, I learned that star Patricia Routledge also played the 12th-century nun Hildegard von Bingen in 1994. That reminds me! I must get started on my posting for Ada Lovelace Day, coming up next Wednesday.


*I planted 40 jiffy pots that night. The fastest seeds to germinate were hollyhocks, followed by corn and Swiss chard.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License