Yesterday I spotted my first tiny muscari, the common purple grape hyacinth I had planted decades ago as an edging along my front entrance garden bed. It’s a bit early, but I don’t mind, especially as the crocuses begin to fade and the yellow tulips have yet to send up stalks from their nests of still curled leaves.
The grape hyacinth resembles clusters of tiny grapes, usually in shades of blue or purple, sometimes white, depending upon their particular variety. Its genus name Muscari derives from the Greek word for musk, a perfume fixative used for its persistently heavy scent.
As I play with this Greek derivative, I discover Muscadine (c. 1785), a Southern grape with small clusters that smell like musk. Muscadet (c. 1899) is a dry white wine from France’s Loire Valley. Muscat (c. 1548) is any of several cultivated grapes used for making wines and raisins. Muscat Canelli, in fact, is one of my favorite white wines that’s become scarce in grocery stores. And Muscatel, from Old French muscadel and Middle English muskadell, is both a sweet fortified wine and a variety of raisin.
Enough word play and on to the little grape-like bulb of early spring. Although there are countless varieties of the grape hyacinth, I believe mine is the Muscari armeniacum, among the more common found in home gardens. They tend to spread and, if allowed free reign, will naturalize in the lawn. I usually dig up those and transplant back along the edging. Once the tulips brighten the garden bed, the yellows and blues create a stunning vista from the street view. Walkers often stop to admire the scene.
But the most stunning scene I once viewed was a river of purple grape hyacinths weaving between masses of red tulips in a spring woodland. Goes to show that Mother Nature mixes her hues despite my mother’s advice never to wear red with purple!