'Unvaunting blossoms, pale but sweet, have learned to show their faces.'
Allium Neapolitanum is the white flower that is seen very early in the year, in street seller's baskets. Few plants bear forcing better than does this hardy species, but there is now an improved Allium, known as A. Hermetti grandiflorum, which is not only finer but has none of the garlic smell that unpleasantly distinguishes the Neapolitan variety. It is a curious fact that, though a whole woodland, or side of a garden, can be rendered malodorous by a few groups of this relative of the leek and onion, after the flowers have been a little while in water, in vases, the smell departs from them.
To force either of these Alliums, pot bulbs in October, or earlier, 2 inches deep, and 1 inch apart, in ordinary compost. Keep the pots in a cold frame, or unheated greenhouse, just covered by moss, or other material, till foliage is well up and blooms are coming, then give them a temperature of 550.
The Golden Moly (Allium aureum), a foot tall and very effective, may be grown in the same fashion, three bulbs in each six-inch pot.
Alliums to cultivate in pots, or in sun, shadow, or semi-shade out of doors, in addition to the above, offer various shades.
Deep blue. 2 feet tall. Spring.
Bright rose. 1 foot. Spring and summer.
Purple-crimson. 1 foot. Summer bloomer.
Bright deep blue, 1 1/2 feet. Summer.
Straw colour. 2 feet. Flowers all the summer. Only fit for the rockery.
Owing to the many months over which Alliums blossom, in succession of varieties, an Allium Rockery Mound, or dell, would be an effective, as well as an instructive, ornament for a garden. Bulbs should line out; those removed from pots might be made use of in shrubbery clearings.
The Ornithagalum family constitutes one of the many mysteries in gardening, for why we all habitually neglect it can only be surmised! I am inclined to blame the length, and ugliness, of the Latin name, and the inapplicableness of the English, Star of Bethlehem, to more than one species.
The Star of Bethlehem. White, with glistening petals visible on almost dark nights.
Big White Star Flowers, with black centres.
White, striped with green.
Tall spikes of thickly clustered white blossoms.
Tall pointed spikes of cream flowers.
It is a safe rule to plant the small bulbed kinds 3 inches deep, and 3 apart, the large bulbed sorts, 4 inches deep, and 6 apart, in sunny borders, beds, rockeries, or turf; or pot small bulbs five in a six-inch pot, large bulbs one in each six-inch pot, using a compost of loam, leaf-mould, peat, and sand. Keep pots in cool places, with only the scattering of moss or other material over the surfaces that will prevent too rapid evaporation of moisture from that compost; but, when growth is visible, begin to water, and gradually increase the supply, also gradually bringing the plants into full light, sunshine, and a temperature not above 650.
The Pyramidal Ornithagalum is a charming window plant: the black-eyed one, O. Arabicum, looks lovely in hanging wire or rustic wood baskets along a veranda. The garden bulbs need no lifting for four years; pot-bulbs should be dried off, stored, and replanted annually.
Just when we are beginning to feel rather 'autumny' about our gardens, conscious of falling ambitions and fading chances, the Meadow Saffron comes to the relief of our spirits. Why? - And how?
Well, those ineffective banks, and shady rockery slopes, those bared window-boxes in which annuals succumbed too soon, the glades between the summer bloomed-out rose-trees, the burnt or trampled lawn under the weeping-willows' branches, can be made to gleam with peach-mauve blossoms in a few weeks. And not peach-mauve only, with crimson-rose, purple, and white also.
Simply order all the kinds - unless the purse forbids. The Giant White variety's bulbs are about three-and-sixpence each, I believe, while others are six shillings a dozen at the worst - the commonest are much less. All are shaped like immense crocuses, but Crocuses they are not, in spite of being constantly called so.
Pale peach and white.
Say that the ordered bulbs arrive in early July, as they should - plant some at once, others at intervals of a few days, until the middle of September. If you like, try retarding some bulbs, by putting them away in a tin box, tightly closed, in a cold dry cellar, not to be planted till the second or third weeks in November, then in frames, to make a bid for Christmas flowers. Put bulbs anywhere moist, fairly rich, and rather shady, placing them 3 inches deep, and 3 inches apart. They ought to bloom in six to eight weeks, but any that take longer will be worth waiting for. How the bees love them! What a revelation they are to countless flower-lovers, if planted in roadside gardens!
Leaves do not come until after the flowers, then make a pretty carpet. Meadow Saffrons are absolutely hardy, ready to grow from seeds sown out of doors in September, but seedlings do not blossom for four years. Colchicums are also good as pot- or window-box plants.
Let me include Hardy Spiderworts, or Tradescantias in this book, although they are herbaceous perennials. There is 'such a bulby look about them,' as a young friend of mine put it, and they can be increased rapidly by divisions of the roots. Plant them any time from October to April, in semi-shade or fullest sun, leave them alone, except to give water in droughty seasons, and there will soon be masses of vivid green cool-looking grassy foliage, 1 1/2 to 2 feet high, and stems set with quaint, vivid sky-blue, royal-blue, violet, rosy purple, or shining white flowers. They are the loveliest companions for Montbretias, helping them make a tropically gay sort of field. Hardy Trades-cantias are well worth pot cultivation. I mean to try to force them gently for the greenhouse and for dinner-table centre-pieces.