Hyacinthus orientalis 'Borah'

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Sat, 20 Oct 2007 08:52:11 PDT
Garden hyacinths, Hyacinthus orientalis, have been in this garden as long as
I have. I've always liked them, and I wouldn't want to be without at least a
few every spring. However, they are all pretty much cut out with the same
cookie cutter, and other than color the group varies only within very narrow

I've long cherished a clump of Roman hyacinths, but other than those and the
score or so of typical cultivars I've grown (both single and double),  I've
never looked much into the variation in cultivated hyacinths. 

Last night I picked up an old paperback bulb book from 1975, Rob Herwig's
128 Bulbs You Can Grow. And in reading the account of hyacinths, I was both
reminded of something I had forgotten about and also prompted to think I
might be understanding something in retrospect which I didn't fully
understand before. Herwig discusses the hyacinth cultivar 'Borah', aka Fairy
Hyacinth. What, in the greater scheme of things hyacinth, is 'Borah'? 

Evidently it is not one of the so-called Cynthella hyacinths marketed during
the first half of the twentieth century (Cynthella is presumably short for
"hyacinthella" - "little hyacinths"  and not to be confused with the genus
Hyacinthella). Cynthella hyacinths were nothing more than small bulbs of the
same cultivars sold as garden or forcing hyacinths. They produced smaller
inflorescences than those of full-sized bulbs. As far as I'm aware,
hyacinths are no longer sold in the Cynthella sizes. 

Several years ago, a new class of garden hyacinths called Festival Hyacinths
appeared on the market. These are not Cynthella hyacinths. They are
hyacinths which whatever their bulb size produce only multiple, relatively
few-flowered stems which mimic those of the old Roman hyacinths. The
Festival Hyacinths are marketed in colors, as Festival Blue, Festival White
and Festival Pink. I assume these are clones.  

Here's where I'm going with this: is that old cultivar 'Borah' a member of
the Festival group? Is 'Borah' the plant now sold as 'Festival Blue'? Or is
it a precursor of the Festival Hyacinths, derived from similar breeding

And finally, is 'Borah' still in commerce under that or another name? 

If there are any hyacinth pundits lurking out there, please speak up!   

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where Crocus tournefortii
opened this morning. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden http://www.jimmckenney.com/
BLOG! http://mcwort.blogspot.com/
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin http://www.pvcnargs.org/ 
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