Crocus foliage must yellow and dry off naturally; then it can be twisted off. Gardeners often tie it into knots first, thinking it looks less unsightly, but the unnaturalness of this is odious, in my opinion. The right way to hide the eyesore is to lay the leaves flat, peg them down even if necessary, and cover them in with dry coco-nut fibre refuse or dry earth. Patches of Crocuses, of course, can be given plants for neighbours that will spread out in spring and kindly cover their foliage decay. Double or single white Arabis, Yellow Alyssum Saxatile, Pansies, Violas, Forget-me-nots, are suitable.
Crocuses may be cultivated in moss-fibre and sea-shell in undrained bowls and saucers, by the usual recipe for this style of room decoration. They will grow and blossom, too, in coco-nut fibre refuse, Hop Manure, and sand.
Bulbs out of pots and bowls should be planted in the garden.
Crocuses have a way of rising in the soil out of doors, and getting lost: mulches of compost may be needed, or the gentle pushing back of bulbs when ground is moist. Division and replanting ought not to be required oftener than every fourth year.
Seeds are freely made, and may be gathered, dried slightly, stored in sand, and sown just under sandy soil, in frames or nursery-beds, in September. Seedlings bloom when from three to five years old. In the second early September the seedlings should be transplanted.
Sparrows may peck at the early Crocuses, especially at the gold; in which case a little black cotton should be stretched across, from one small stick to another. In making beds or borders of mixed bulbous plants, designed to show some bloom at all times of the year, the great value of the Crocuses will deserve special recognition. Their gaiety and charm entitle them to positions close by our dwellings.
A Bed of many Bulbous Plants.
'Bluebells' are not always blue, that is the strange truth; for send to a florist for pink or white 'bluebells,' to accompany the old familiar blue, and he will supply them. But the gardener who wishes to be an adept at bulb ordering as well as at bulb growing so as to have a feast of exquisite bell flowers of spring, can make use of this list.
Old English Bluebell.
Azure blue, perfumed.
Deep rosy red.
Handsome, deep blue.
I imagine no British flower garden can be considered really satisfactory in spring unless some of the above are present. They flourish in sun or shade, best in semi-sunshine such as that which filters through branch-interstices of lofty deciduous trees, and lies down green glades of woodlands at certain hours of day in summer, autumn, and spring. The winter sunshine, unobstructed by foliage, ripens the bulbs in the ground.
Then we can grow Scillas that are popularly known as Squills, the very early bloomers of the race. There is no truer blue flower than the little Scilla Sibirica, that blossoms usually a trifle before the Chionodoxa for the 'gladness of azure' is blended, somehow, with the richer hue called 'royal.' Or we may make use of the pure white kind. Yet the still more dwarf blue or white Scilla bifolia generally beats 'Sibirica' in a competition for earliness.
These can be cultivated in pots or bowls, as though they were Crocuses.
The 'bluebells,' and the 'bell-flowered' Scillas just described, should be grown only out of doors, or in pots, like Tulips. But there is no need to lift the bulbs.
Lastly, the garden should be enriched by a show of the summer-blooming Cuban Lily, Scilla peruviana, either blue or white, which form free-flowering and quite handsome plants. Or these may be potted like Oriental Hyacinths, but well under the soil.
By the by, it is luxury in house-front decoration to possess three or four sets of window-boxes, grow plants in them all, but place in position on the sills only those, of course, that are beautifully furnished with leaf or flower. If this is done, boxes of Crocuses and small shrubs are ready to lift away as soon as boxes of Bluebells or of bell-flowered Scilla Campanulata are ready to go where they came from; boxes of Spanish Irises may arrive next, and boxes of Scilla peruviana, the Cuban Lily, probably just a little later than the Irises, will amaze people who are unacquainted with their charm.
Most of the Scillas grow easily from seed, as may be guessed by recollecting what plantations of the Bluebell appear uninvited in gardens where a few bulbs have been formerly admitted. Seed should be sown as soon as ripe, in sandy beds, or boxes in cold frames, and will bloom in three or four years.
Scillas can be increased by removal of offsets. I have seen a fine colour contrast effected in window-boxes with a south aspect by mingling bulbs of blue Scilla peruviana and the orange Bobart's Lily, Bobartia Aurantiaca. The latter blooms from June to August, is I foot high, needs lifting and drying off after it has flowered, and replanting in October, 3 inches deep.
Mixed spring bulbs make beautiful edging belts to Herbaceous Borders, and a border devoted to groups of all the known spring-blooming bulbous plants is indeed a lesson in floriculture!
Bulbs for Edgings.