'Some flowers there are that rear their heads on high, The gorgeous products of a burning sky.'
THERE are bulbous plants suited to all kinds of glass-houses - the Alpine House, that is quite unheated, kept for the culture mainly of plants that need shelter, without heat, yet excellent for many plants also that can do without shelter but bloom earlier with some - the ordinary greenhouse or conservatory, the temperature of which varies between 45° and 65° - and the hothouse, or stove, where heat and a humid atmosphere are intended to persuade exotics that they are at home.
We have already noted, in the preceding chapters, how willing various Hardy bulbous plants are to grow and bloom out of doors, or under glass without heat, and even to let themselves be forced, by heat, into rapid development and maturing of blossoms. But there are many beautiful subjects that need to be cultivated in glasshouses ; others which, though able to live in sheltered nooks of very warm, safe gardens, are more to be relied on when better protected.
Hippeastrums are greenhouse varieties of Amaryllis in the majority of bulb merchants' lists. The flowers are of splendid rich colours, also blends with white, as a glance at the list given further on will show. Bulbs should be potted in February, one in each six-inch pot, in a compost of two parts good loam, with half parts each of peat, very ancient dry cow-manure, leaf-mould, and coarse sand. These bulbs are not buried, but inserted about two-thirds of their depth. In order to maintain moisture in the compost for some time, without having to risk giving water, it is wise to sink the pots up to their rims in cinder-ashes, or coco-nut-fibre refuse, in deep boxes, or plunge them in a border-bed, in the greenhouse ; watering the fibre between the pots will keep the compost in the pots sufficiently damp until growth appears. Then watering must begin, but with these, as with all greenhouse bulbs, extreme care must be taken not to over-water - above all, not to re-water until the soil is really on the verge of becoming quite dry.
Directly flower spikes are discernible liquid manures, in weak form, can be given once a week. There may be some made with cow-manure, and some with horse-manure; if so, give these alternately, then soft water, then begin again; or if there is some made with mixed farm-yard manure, that can be alternated with sootwater. Another good plan is to use a slight scattering of bone-meal, or crushed bones, in the compost when potting the bulbs.
The temperature for flowering Hippeastrums in may be from 65° to 75°, but some growers cultivate them altogether in cold frames, with protective coverings in winter. In the former case they bloom in February and March as a rule; in the latter case they must not be expected to flower until April and May. In September, after the blossoming is done, watering must be gradually stopped, and this accommodating plant needs a temperature of only 50° to 55° from then until the following February. The plants will not want repotting until the third or fourth year, but every February they should be top-dressed with fresh compost. When repotting is at last done, any offsets should be removed, and treated just like bulbs.
Orange-vermilion, with black centre.
Crimson, with black throat.
Scarlet, netted with carmine.
White, veined with carmine.
Carmine, edged and flaked with white.
Cream, veined with scarlet.
The culture of Nerines differs in a few particulars. It is usual to put one bulb, half its depth, in a four-anda-half-inch pot, or three in a six or seven-inch; potting may begin in August and be continued until November; the pots should be in cold frames or greenhouses at first, and though they may be exposed to more warmth when plants are well growing, the latter need plenty of air, therefore moist heat of a slightly ventilated greenhouse will not suit them. From the time when flowers are over until the time (September) for restarting bulbs, the pots had better occupy a shelf high in the greenhouse, close to a ventilator. Careful growers give weak liquid manure to plants that are out of bloom but have not yellowed as to foliage, but leave off all watering when the leaves die; and it is by attention to such small details that the real triumphs in floriculture are gained. Nerines are of consummate value; small specimens bear six to eight blossoms in a truss, while fine ones may carry as many as twenty-three upon one stem. They continue ornamental for months, instead of passing rapidly from beauty to bareness, as do many of our best-prized greenhouse occupants, and their colours include rose, coral, cerise, blush, and white, as well as scarlets and crimsons.
Though the price of a single bulb often runs into several pounds, others, of older varieties, are but two to three shillings, and less by the dozen.
Soft pink. Curved petals.
Rose, with golden sheen.
White, striped pale rose, with silver sheen, and waved petals.
Rich satiny crimson.
Bright red, flushed with mauve.
Imantophyllum miniatum, often known as the Clivia, is commonly cultivated entirely in rooms, but year after year may pass and no blooms relieve the monotony of leaves that are like broad-pointed deepest green reeds. To have pleasure from the 'Natal Lily,' as we may call it, pot the thickened roots in February, in a compost of two parts loam to one each of really old manure and coarse sand, put the pots on a sunny greenhouse shelf, water slightly when signs of drying are observed, and syringe as the days become hot. After the flowers have formed a few doses of weak liquid manures may be given, and the plants can be used to decorate conservatories or rooms. Treat after flowering like Nerines. The winter temperature may be as high as 65o, though 55o will suffice, or even a drop to 50o will not kill the plants; the summer or flowering temperature may rise to 75°, though 6o° will suffice then. It is when Natal Lilies are treated wholly on the hardy side of culture that they are shy of yielding their beautiful grouped heads of red-orange bloom.