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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 March, 2005, 13:54 GMT
Gardeners snap up black hyacinths
Black hyacinth

A darker bloom will vie for attention among spring's yellow daffodils and bright tulips next year, as the first black hyacinth has gone on sale.

Midnight Mystique has been developed by a Suffolk firm from three "mother bulbs" bought in Holland for 150,000.

Up to 30,000 are being sold in the UK this year, to plant in September, and pop up in flowerbeds in spring 2006.

But keen gardeners will need more than the average 50p a bulb to own one - the new variety costs 7.99 each.

Nature's wonder

"It has a wonderful sheen to it when the sun catches it - the black just sort of jumps out at you," said Paul Hansord, managing director of Thompson and Morgan (Young Plants).

The heavily-scented plant was bred by crossing blue and white varieties of the plant to produce a black-flowering type.

"I have no idea how that happened" he said, "That's the wonder of nature."

The firm bought the original three bulbs at a show in Holland eight years ago.

It cultivated them into this year's estimated crop of 25-30,000 using traditional methods - scooping out the bottom of the bulb to let baby bulbs develop.

And it employed new tissue culture technology, to speed the process.

The new black

The black hyacinth will go on show for the first time at the highlight of the horticulturalist's calendar - the Chelsea Flower Show, in May.

Black flowers are said to be fashionable, with pansies, iris and even black bamboo proving popular.

"In our catalogue we have spreads of yellow or blue flowers - but the one that works is of black flowers," Mr Hansord said.

"Hyacinths are very easy because the flower's already established in the bulb, so if you plant it in good conditions, it will flower - that's the beauty of it," he added.

Hyacinths are named after Hyakinthos, a figure in Greek mythology who was loved by the god Apollo.

They were first brought to Europe in the 1500s.


SEE ALSO:
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13 Mar 05 |  Cornwall
Daffodils and cod 'under threat'
25 Oct 04 |  Politics


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