There is something enchanting and uplifting about a single hyacinth bulb blooming on a gray, damp winter day, something about the clustered, heady perfume of its flower, the thick green stem, the swirling roots below, and the bulb sitting perfectly in the pinched-neck vase designed specifically for it.
Hyacinth glasses, also known as bulb vases, originated in the 18th century and are made from many different kinds of material and come in many colors. They can be beautiful on their own (with or without flowers) or gathered together on a windowsill or table.
It was the Victorians (once again) who perfected the art of the forced bulb in winter (think of those charming old conservatories brimming with life), but really it is fairly easy to create a little garden of your own with hyacinths. Forcing bulbs requires you to chill them in a cool, dark place and then bring them out into the light and air somewhat unnaturally. If you are impatient or not the best at planning ahead like me, you can buy pre-chilled hyacinth bulbs (which have already gone through the 12-15 weeks of chilling somewhere else). Many grocery stores carry the kits with the bulbs and the vase (I got mine at Whole Foods for $5.99).
My son’s fiancé is thinking of hyacinth bulbs for centerpieces for their wedding next winter (this will take some planning, so we will keep you posted). After she told me that, I read somewhere that hyacinths stand for young love…and I have been meaning to tell her this…