I can’t wait for the weekend, not only is it predicted to be warm and sunny and it’s Mother’s Day, which is always a pleasure – but my children have arranged for me to visit Alan Shipp’s famous rare hyacinth collection in Cambridgeshire.
Alan Shipp is reaching around his 80th year and has been custodian of the UK’s National Collection of Hyacinths since 1989 growing around 200,000 flowering bulbs on his modestly sized, two acre plot. He grows 180 different varieties including one of the world’s oldest existing hyacinths, the Grande Blanche Imperial, and the King Menelik Black, worth £9.50 a bulb.
Alan Shipp has become the guardian for many rare species of hyacinth and indeed, saving old varieties from extinction is his grand passion. He has inevitably become the known as the King of Hyacinths and people from all over the world come to him when trying track a rare bloom. One success story is of a double yellow which was thought lost for all time but was found in Lithuania and sent to Mr Shipp for conservation and propagation.
Originally a potato farmer, Alan became hooked on hyacinths in 1985 and started out by buying 200kg of bulbs from Holland for around £500. He began to splice his own unique varieties as his gardening skills improved and caught the bug – within a few years he was exporting them to experts and collectors in the US from his farm in Waterbeach, Cambs.
Here’s a really comprehensive article about the history of hyacinths – starting with the origin of the name which apparently goes back around 4000 years: https://oldhousegardens.com/HyacinthHistory
Ironically, I don’t really like hyacinths in the garden but I love them grown in pots, especially as house plants or cut flowers. The best thing about these chunky little beauties is their fabulous scent – I am looking forward to being overcome this weekend. If you fancy taking a run out to see the world’s largest collection of rare hyacinths in bloom, here are the details:
EVENT Hyacinth Open Days 25 to 26 March 2017
Refreshments, plant stall, free parking, toilets Admission £3.00
Event Location: Event Location: Waterbeach, CB25 9LQ
Event Contact: Event Contact: Alan Shipp Tel/fax: 01223 571064 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Event Start Date: 25/03/2017 11:00
Event End Date: 26/03/2017 17:00