on April 23, 2006
There are lots of books on spring bulbs with glorious photos of tulips and daffodils, but finally here is a book that treats hyacinths as something other than a brief afterthought. If you thought hyacinths come only in light pink, white, or blue prepare to be amazed. There are soft orange, almost black purple, yellow, lilac, and wine hyacinths. Most are single flowers but some have frilly double florets. Chapter 6 (20 pages) is nothing but hyacinths--photos of florets from different cultivars in side by side comparison, descriptions of over 100 species and cultivars, and history and cultivation tips. For those with an interest in old Victorian varieties, Geoff Stebbings gives the introduction date, the introducer and even the parents where known. He does the same excellent job for daffodils and tulips in other chapters, but there are other books that cover them. However, if like me you have been enchanted by the sweet smell of hyanciths and want to know more, this is the book to get.
on November 1, 2013
We gardeners often live in shame. Furtively, we sometimes spend whole nights at our computers, searching. We wait nervously at the mailbox, then smuggle our goods home tucked under our coats. We daren't share our desires with our husbands or wives...what would they say? We pore over our literature alone: in the john, in bed at night (surely those thrilling photos are airbrushed!!). And in the Spring, a young gardener's fancy lightly turns to.....bulb catalogues.
The porn of of botany.
They promise so much, don't they? They whisper, "Your house, too, could look like a Cotswald cottage or a Newport mansion, all.... (shiver)....naturalized... with great swathes of daffs and tulips. You could well be drowning in grape hyacinths by next year. Just buy a few more...."
Oh, but the failures! The blighted bulbs, withering in the heat, or swooning with eelworm! The ill-chosen colors, the weird, twisted beds shooting out from the house like lightening-bolts, to the horror of the neighbors....
Enter Geoff Stebbings' glorious "Spring Bulbs: Daffodils, Tulips and Hyacinths". It's a delightful guide and variety list, masquerading as a coffee-table book. Stebbings' book isn't encyclopedic--with tulips, for instance, numbering in the thousands, how could it be? But it's close. Each division or class is explained and listed with dozens and dozens of examples, most illustrated.
And the photographs! They're artwork all by themselves. In fact, my only gripe about this book is that a few of the photographs cram so many blousey daffodils, for instance, into a photo that they're hard to match with the blurb. But that's minor and blessedly uncommon.
Everybody's got to start somewhere, and Geoff Stebbings, who trained at Kew Garden, is an instant leg up into the confusing, breathlessly sexy world of bulbs. I haven't planted any of these beauties in 20 years, so scarred was I by my past mistakes. But I spent today with my hands 6 to 8-inches deep in dirt, planting again for the first time in a VERY long time and, thanks to Geoff (who has goosed my wistful regret back into raging lust), I CAN'T WAIT FOR SPRING!