Monday, January 24, 2011

Hyacinth, the Love of the God Apollo


We had extreme cold weather warnings on the weekend. It was the kind of brutal cold that stings your face, thumbs your fingertips and quickly penetrates even an extra thick layer of wool socks. The frigid temperatures definitely left me pining for spring.

I always save a walk past the floral department for the end of a trip to the grocery store. Even if I don't purchase anything, it is a treat to see cellophane wrapped bouquets of fresh flowers and displays of spring bulbs. On Saturday, there were orchids for the bargain price and pots of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths to temp me. After much humming and hawing, I chose the hyacinths.

The death of Hyacinth by Merry-Joseph Blondel

This is a rather theatrical depiction of Apollo bent in grief over the body of his lover Hyacinth. According to Greek mythology, Hyacinth, the handsome son of a Spartan king, made the fatal error of rejecting the affections of the Zephyrus, god of the west wind. In a fit of jealousy, Zephyrus blew Apollo's discus against the boy's head mortally wounding him. A purple hyacinth flower sprang from the young boy's spilled blood. 


Hyacinth was also a martyred Christian saint who starved to death when he refused to eat meat that had been blessed in a sacrifice to pagan gods. 

Wild Hyacinth, a native of Turkey and the Middle East, was introduced to Europe in the 16th century.


According to the Victorian language of flowers, the hyacinth flower symbolizes sport or play. A blue hyacinth signifies sincerity.




Hyacinth bulbs have been cultivated commercially since the second half of the 16th century. As well as being grown for their flowers, hyacinths are also cultivated in the Netherlands for the perfume trade. Most hyacinth perfume sold however is actually synthetic.



Not everyone likes the rich, spicy scent of hyacinth flowers. Certainly their fragrance can overpower a small room. Myself, I like the heady fragrance and the waxy, bell shaped flowers.

I put the pink and white hyacinth flowers into two of my favorite containers. I hope they brighten the start of your work week.

18 comments:

  1. Jennifer, I love hyacinths! I have many planted throughout the garden. The only sad part is that they thin out after the first year or two. However, they are worth the expense just for perfume.

    Eileen

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  2. Dear Jennifer, I do so love the soapy scent of Hyacinths and your images of them massed in ceramic containers look absolutely wonderful. They really can perfume a room and are one of the real joys of winter for me.

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  3. I can just smell the flowers right through the monitor. Hyacinths are one of my favorite flowers to usher in Spring.

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  4. I had no idea about the lore behind the hyacinth. Most interesting!

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  5. The weather has been brutal and I always try to have spring bulbs in the house at this time of year to remind me spring is not far.. Your photos are fantastic....

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  6. I just picked up a forced Hyacinth at the grocery store for a little color and the yummy scent. I never knew so many plants got their names from Greek mythology.

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  7. my favorite scent in early spring is when all the hyacinths are in bloom

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  8. I love Hyacinths and love your photos, Jennifer, just beautiful!! I also did not remember the story of the myth of Hyacinth. Wild times!

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  9. I did not know of the mythology behind the name of the hyacinth flower before reading this. Your photos of the hyacinths are sublime. Personally I love the fragrance of hyacinths.

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  10. You can practically smell them! Glorious! I can't wait for spring! Catching a wiff of them as I come home is truly a sensual delight!

    I wanted to let you know my blog moved! You can now find the Dandelion Wrangler at www.FlorabyLaura.ca Stop by anytime!

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  11. What a lovely post! Beautiful pictures! How nice that you have a sheltie. We have got one too:)
    Take care,
    Charlotta

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  12. Such lovely flowers with a mythical lore and your great shots of them. I have only the water hyacinth in my pond, a delicate purple colour flower which lasts only a day.

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  13. What luscious photos--I especially like the last one of the white flowers, it's almost 3D.

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  14. What beautiful pictures! And I had no idea about the Greek lore. You learn something new every day ;)

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  15. Wonderful post! I have to agree with Carolyn about the last picture. It almost looks like I could reach out and touch it and feel a flower instead of a computer screen. :o) Great history, too.

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  16. Very beautiful flowers! and photos too. hyacinth is a great flower to have

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  17. As always Jennifer, you did an amazing job photographing these beautiful bulbs. Count me among the lovers of their fragrance. I have numerous bulbs chilling in my frig right now that I can't wait to smell & see. I hope to haul them out soon and have my own display. I doubt I'll take as wonderful a photo as you tho. That last one is really incredible.

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  18. How absolutely exquisite! I, too, love the fragrance of these beautiful flowers, but I've never grown them! What does that say about me, I wonder?

    I so enjoyed reading the mythology behind these glorious little flowers and your beautiful pictorial portrayal.

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