The Delft Blue Hyacinth has been given an RHS Award of Garden Merit, AGM, for good reason. This elegant hyacinth is a tower of many delicate, single flowers of wonderful china blue that you find in old-fashioned Delft tiles should you be so lucky as to own some. The clarity and consistency of the blue gives the flower its intensity. The technical term for each individual mini flower is a nail. The mid to deep blue and the yellow hyacinths, such as City of Haarlem tend to have the most attractive scents. For our money, the heady and sensuous fragrance of Delft Blue is one of the best because it is less cloying than some while pervading the house if grown indoors. Possessing a shorter and slightly stubby stalk it also does not tend to flop as easily as some other varieties.
Hyacinths can be forced inside so that you can enjoy their scent and colour at close proximity. They tend to grow slightly taller inside and will need to be supported with a small cane or by tying some string around the leaves and flower spike as they emerge. They look good in groups of odd numbers. We tend to avoid the punchbowl effect of mixing too many colours together but the traditional blue and white look always impresses - try the tiny Hyacinth White Pearl - or for a more striking effect the deep carmine of Jan Bos. Hyacinths also enhance any flower arrangement. Add a tiny bit of bleach to the water to ensure that they look at their best for as long as possible.
Outside, hyacinths perform best in the open and can be used en masse as part of a formal bedding scheme or at the front of an herbaceous border. If you have grown a hyacinth indoors one year, plant the deadheaded bulb outside and with a little bit of t.l.c. it will flower again in years to come.
Delft china of the 17th century came (unsurprisingly) from Delft in Holland. Its secret lay in two things. The clay from which it was made was part German, part Dutch and part French. Recipes were closely guarded.
The second trick was that it was tin-glazed. Pots were completely in white tin glaze instead of covering only the painting surface. The potters then covered the tin-glaze with clear glaze, which transformed the surface, producing magnificent blue cobalt colours and giving it a depth which, in the finest Delft-ware, produced a good likeness to porcelain which was impossibly expensive at the time. See the full variety of hyacinth bulbs available to order online.