This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
When this capricious plant finds the surroundings perfectly congenial to its nature, it is capable of immense development, and on rare occasions yields results at which we gaze with astonishment. A specimen worth traveling miles to see has this season graced one of our city gardens. Mr. T. Putnam Symonds, of Salem, Mass., planted in 1874, near the south-east side of his residence, No. 65 North Street, four bulbs of the auratum Lily; they were imported commercial bulbs of the first-class, and were set in a row about two feet apart, in soil cool, moist and partially shaded, and prepared with some care for their reception. These bulbs have gone on increasing in size , and vigor year by year, and yield in their season a charming picture of floral beauty.
Bulb No. 3 has given this season, 1878, five main stalks from seven to eight feet in height, bearing respectively, ten, eleven, eleven, thirteen and fourteen flowers, and six minor stalks bearing eight flowers, sixty-seven in all; the flowers remarkably large and fine, and the whole plant a model of health and vigor. But the bulb nearest the street, marked, I believe, No. 1, has far surpassed this; last season, 1877, it yielded three stalks with seventeen, seven and one flowers, twenty-five in all. It is now, August 20th, 1878, carrying the immense number of 173 flowers, thus disposed: there are two main stalks nine and eight and a half feet high, bearing 140 and twenty flowers and buds, and four minor stalks from four to six feet high with thirteen flowers, 173 in all. The principal stalk is about three inches in circumference at the base, but quickly becomes fasciate, flattening to three inches in breadth and about one-eighth of an inch in thickness at the apex, where it is cleft; the upper two feet is crowded with flower buds, interspersed with leaves, 140 in number by careful count. About ten have proved abortive, but the stalk produced some 130 flowers.
This was cut and exhibited August 24th, at the rooms of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, in Boston, where it excited much surprise and admiration, and gained for Mr. Symonds the merited reward of the Society's silver medal.
At the head of this article I have called this plant capricious, and I think their experience in its culture will incline many to agree with me. Often, in spite of all our care, its bulbs, retrograding year by year, end in nothingness, and we cannot imagine why. Quite as often our success is moderate; we esteem stalks with ten or fifteen flowers excellent, and, in the present state of our knowledge of the plant's habit and requirements, so they are.
Mr. Symonds' bulbs get no special treatment, a top-dressing of old hot-bed manure, mixed with a little lime, in the Autumn, being all they demand. The fact is they like their surroundings. A light, rich soil, seldom too wet or too dry, rarely superheated, and partially shaded by neighboring trees and vines, has kept them in health and excited them to yield results which, although rivalled by bulbs specially cultivated in England, has never, to my knowledge, been equaled by bulbs growing naturally in the open air.