This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The different varieties of Lilium lancifolium are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful objects that are within the reach of cultivators of moderate means; and it is a matter of difficulty with me to account for their comparative neglect by many admirers of Flora's less beautiful and more expensive productions, save by supposing that they are but little known in our rural districts. The following remarks, therefore, may possibly be the means of inducing those who have hitherto neglected these beautiful plants to bestow upon them the attention which they merit.
The Japan Lilies are recommended by many for out-door culture, and are said to be perfectly hardy. The truth of the latter statement I am not inclined to question; but the results of my experiments with Rubrum and Album in the open border have not been much to my mind; and, from what I have observed elsewhere, I am inclined to think that, except in a few favoured localities, these varieties will never be popular border-flowers in England. I have seen them in the most favourable soil and situation in some of the midland counties, and then they have been shewing flower towards the middle or end of September, a season in which the blooms were no sooner expanded than they were disfigured by the effects of our damp atmosphere at that period. I would fain hope, however, that 1 am mistaken, and that those who state that these Lilies are suitable for open-border cultivation are right. The experience of your correspondents in this matter would, I am sure, form a useful page in a future Number of The Florist, and I invite attention to the subject.
I would, however, take the liberty of stating, that we have already a sufficient number of periodicals open to articles savouring of controversy, and that the conductors of The Florist are right in determining that it shall continue the vehicle of well-authenticated facts and mature experience. I would on that account invite only such persons to reply as have tried Album and Rubrum for at least two seasons in the open border; and then the locality in which they succeeded or failed should be mentioned. I am aware that many flower Rubrum in perfection out of doors, and so do I; but then the plants were in pots, and were artificially forwarded before they were placed in the open border, and without this assistance I have never found it to do any good. Our damp atmosphere, moreover, too soon disfigures it with black spots, and the flowers are but short lived, which I have also found to be the case with Album.
While I cannot agree with many, however, in recommending these Lilies as border-flowers, I am of opinion that they deserve the most extensive cultivation as pot-plants. For the conservatory or greenhouse they are decidedly the most splendid of autumn flowers. Those who intend to procure bulbs of the different varieties should do so when they are dormant, for they then suffer least from the accidents common to travelling. If the bulbs are received in the pots in which they have made their season's growth, shake the soil from their roots, and repot them in fresh material, giving a gentle watering to settle the soil, and place them in a cool frame or greenhouse, where they may remain without further attention until the beginning of March, by which time they will be shewing signs of activity, and may be moderately supplied with water. I generally find the pots to be well filled with roots towards the latter end of April; and, when such is the case, I carefully shift them into a pot which I consider to be sufficiently large for their season's growth. This, howrever, must be regulated according to the age and strength of the bulbs.
For offsets of the first year I use 5-inch pots; for those of two years 9-inch pots; and for full-grown bulbs, which they will be the third season, 12-inch pots. After they receive their final shift they are returned to their former quarters, allowed abundance of air, and are carefully supplied with water, for they very readily suffer from an excess of this element. They will enjoy an evening sprinkling with the syringe after bright clays, but they will thrive without it. As the season advances, they will be improved by a little manure-water. If they are not injured by over-watering, or the want of air, they will not be likely to suffer from any other cause; should the green-fly, however, make its appearance, fumigate at once with tobacco-smoke. As the stems advance, give them the support of a stake. The plants I wish to flower in August I retain in the greenhouse; such as I want for a later period I remove to a sheltered place out of doors; and by a little management in this way I secure a succession of bloom for at least two months. After the plants have flowered, I gradually withhold water, in order to thoroughly ripen the bulbs; and if they can be placed in a vinery from which the crop has been cut, they will profit by the means usually employed to ripen the wood of the vines.
A dry, moderately warm atmosphere then proves highly beneficial to them.
When I am satisfied that the bulbs are thoroughly matured, which is known by the decay of the leaves and flower-stems, I turn them out of their pots, shake the soil from their roots, and replace them in smaller pots. For full-grown bulbs I use 8-inch pots; but this I leave to the judgment of the cultivator. When potted, treat them as recommended above. I had almost forgotten to state that the bulbs ought to be covered some three or four inches with soil; this is of importance, for they throw out strong roots just above the crown of the bulb, and frequently produce a couple of small bulbs from the same part of the stem. A strong bulb of Rubrum produced with me last autumn somewhere about thirty flowers. From having been allowed to become what gardeners term pot-bound previous to the final shift, it had only protruded a few roots from the base of the bulb through the fresh soil; it had depended for its support principally on the roots above the crown, these having never received any check, as I always cover the bulb at the final shift.
This, then, would teach us to shift before the roots become matted to the side of the pot, and to pot deeply; but I prefer doing this at the second shift, for I imagine that I can better judge about the proper time to start them into growth when the crown of the bulb is visible above the soil.
As regards propagation, - like other bulbous plants, they are increased by means of offsets, which should be removed when the plants are repotted in autumn, except such as are small, which will be better left to grow alongside of their parents for another year: they may also be propagated by seed, as is shewn by the beautiful seedling varieties raised by Mr. Groom. To secure seed, the plants must be induced to flower early in August; the blossoms should be fertilised, and carefully guarded from damp; when ripe, sow the seed thinly on the surface of a shallow pot, well drained, and filled with peaty soil, slightly covering with the same: they should remain in this condition, without water, until early in February. Their farther treatment need not be different from that recommended for the plants.
I ought to state that Punctatum is of an earlier habit than any of the others. It must, however, be encouraged to proceed in its natural way, for I have found it somewhat impatient of control. A frame which is kept rather close, or the warm end of a greenhouse, will be suitable for it; and it will be useful in the conservatory or greenhouse at an earlier period than the other varieties. These beautiful plants succeed in any light, moderately rich soil. I use two parts turfy loam and one peat, or leaf-soil, with the addition of sand according to the texture of the loam.
Should any one who has neither greenhouse nor conservatory entertain a fancy for these Lilies, I would state for their encouragement, that I have seen them grown in the highest perfection with the aid of a small frame and the after protection of a virandah; here they were effectually sheltered from wet, and shaded from the direct rays of the sun. Under such conditions, the flowers remained for an unusually long period in perfection; and it would not be easy to imagine any thing more strikingly beautiful in such a situation than a few well-grown plants of Lilium lancifolium roseum, punctatum, album, and rubrum. If very large specimens are desired, try five or seven full-grown bulbs of Rubrum, or of any of the other varieties, in an 18-inch pot, and I venture to promise that you will have such a picture of floral beauty as you never previously possessed.
Birmingham. W. H.