'Flower-spires that point to mounts of God, Gold spires and silver, bowing as they grow.'
The Kniphofia, or Tritoma, Torch Lily, or Red-hot Poker, makes a glorious comrade for Lilies, Spanish and English Irises, then right away on for Gladioli and Montbretias, till the blood-red Schizostylis proclaims the passing of autumn.
Indeed a frost-defying Dahlia and the Red-hot Pokers are often the last flowers of all in gardens. There are far more varieties of Kniphofias than most gardeners are aware, and one with variegated foliage.
Orange-vermilion and yellow. 5 feet.
Coral-red. 3 feet tall only.
Scarlet, fading to yellow. 5 feet.
Citron, orange shaded. 3 feet.
Coral. 2 feet.
Old gold. 5 feet.
Orange gold-carmine blend. 9 feet.
Yellow. 2 1/2feet.
Red and yellow. 5 feet.
Rosy red and lemon. 5 feet.
A Garden Corner.
Plant in sandy, yet rich, deep beds or borders, in October, November, or March. Mulch every March. Propagate by division of roots.
The Eremuri, Torch Lilies, or Spire Flowers, may be similarly cultivated, are even taller, often attaining a height of 10 or 11 feet, and are of most delicate shades, coming in long-stemmed spikes of clustered florets, from June to October. Another name for the plant is Himalayan Asphodel.
Citron yellow. 8 feet.
Peach. 11 feet.
White. 4 feet.
Rosy peach. 7 feet.
Kniphofias and Eremuri are among the grandest plants for making glades with; if put close to the edges of borders by a narrow path, the vista-view down the walk, when their steeple-like florescence is at its best, will produce one of those remarkable effects for which ambitious gardeners, amateur or professional, are always sighing.
Both plants need plenty of water while in growth.
I have long relied on Montbretias (or Tritonias) for the giving of brilliant orange and vermilion in shady borders, among hardy ferns, where rains sink in and render the soil a 'squash' for weeks together; yet I have a strong regard for them also as occupants of but little compost squeezed in 'pockets' formed by gaps among the bricks of a crumbling old wall. I grew them once in a shallow trough, or ditch, cut in the gravel against a greenhouse wall, and reaped lavish basketsful for home decoration. In both cases the compost put in for them consisted of loam and dry decayed cow-manure, with some brick-rubble. Yet there are gardens in which people find it necessary to give Montbretias the happiest places, and protect them by mulches of coco-nut-fibre during winter.
Occasionally the flowers come meanly, the petals being papery and nearly transparent, and fading almost as soon as unfurled. This may be for lack of nourishment, or root-space, but it is generally noticed where sun-heat is fiercest.
In their native haunts Montbretias spring up among grasses, and in fields full of other flowers, so their bulbs are never subjected to the sun-baking in the soil that injures innumerable other species also in our semi-filled garden beds and borders.
Often we can best understand the desires of plants by imagining them, or visiting them, where they are known as wildings. So now I like to grow Montbretias in grass that may run to seed, on margins of woodlands, meadows, and shrubberies, or sow among them annually such beautiful grasses as the Brizas (Quaking), Coix Lachryma (Job's Tears) and Eragrostis elegans. To press them into the service of wall-gardens and arid rockeries is one thing, legitimate enough in its way; to cultivate them to perfection is another thing, and highly to be commended.
Plant 3 inches deep, 4 or more inches apart, in bold belts or congregations, from October to March. Feed by mulches, or liquid, or powder-chemical manures.
Pot bulbs or corms 3 inches deep, 2 inches apart, cover with cinder-ash or other material, till growth shows. Keep dry after flowers and foliage are dead, and plant in the borders or rockeries next November; or, if preferable, turn out the clumps as they leave off being attractive, and replant them immediately where they can remain.
Pots of Montbretias may be put into greenhouse temperature of not more than 6o°, when flower spikes are visible. By potting at intervals of a week, from early October to March, fine room or greenhouse ornaments are secured throughout the dull months. They can, of course, be cultivated entirely in pots, boxes, and ornamental, turf-lined, compost-filled baskets, inside windows, and make satisfactory window-box fillings, either alone or behind such flowers as white Petunias or mauve Violas.
Yellow, with red spots.
Orange-scarlet. Very large.
Orange-yellow giant, often 4 feet tall.
Yellow inside, deep red outside.
Copper, with yellow disk in centre.
Orange, with purple spot.
Orange, with maroon ring in centre.
Dwarf type. Orange and scarlet.
Some of the above are hybrids, between Montbretias and Crocosmia aurea, a somewhat similar plant, with red-orange flowers, which can be grown by the same method, except for placing bulbs rather deeper and further apart.
All increase rapidly, and require dividing every third year at least.
I have alluded to the Caffre Flag, Schizostylis coccinea, as often one of the latest flowers in our borders. It is scarlet-crimson, continues gay throughout October and November where it starts in September, or throughout November and December where it begins in October. To obtain blossoms at both times I buy bulbs (or rhizomes) fresh annually (though I leave plenty of others out year after year), and plant and pot them for succession. The height varies from 1 foot to 3 feet.
Three bulbs in a six-inch pot do well. Place them so in November or March, using ordinary compost, then treat like Montbretias.
Plant bulbs 2 or 3 inches deep out of doors, or more in very light soils. Divide, and increase by removing portions of roots and rhizomes, in March, when they have become overcrowded.
The Schizostylis will die out of beds during droughty summers unless well and constantly watered.
Of the immense value of this late flower for cutting there can be no question, so we may be thankful that, like the graceful Montbretias, its bulbs are quite cheap.
An Autumn Bulb Border.
There was formerly confusion between Montbretias, Crocosmias, Ixias, and Tritonias; the last are now accorded a distinct place in florists' catalogues, as a rule, and are characterized by the overhanging, or drooping, of their quite narrow leaves. The flowers are orange and gold, in the main, but there are reds and purples. They are not quite as robust, so should be mulched over with dry material after planting is done, and yet possess more stamina in a sense, so require slightly more space both in the ground or in pots. Also, the bulbs must be lifted annually, stored, and replanted, except when occupying nooks in hot rockeries.