But for a moment let me digress and again say a word upon the preparation of the soil, for in this lies the great secret of success in gardening. Make it deep and rich and light, giving to the plants the food they require, and, with weekly cultivation and an occasional soaking to the roots if the weather be dry, you cannot fail to have a successful garden.
People continually ask me, "What is the use of making the beds so deep?" and "Why not put the enrichment on the top of the ground?" If you make a garden with beds but a foot in depth, the plants may struggle along for a year, but look at them the second year and see their stunted condition and poor bloom, and in comparing such a garden with one properly made, the answer is found. If there is a foot of good rich soil below the roots of the plants and all the rest of the earth is equally good, the plants are enabled to resist a drought that would otherwise cause them to cease blossoming, and in ordinary weather to reward the gardener with a wealth of bloom. Good garden soil, with some sand to lighten it if too heavy, and plenty of old stable manure are all that need be used for the garden. But for a small garden a bag each of bone meal and phosphate, with some wood ashes occasionally used sparingly, will help the plants along surprisingly. Anyone can make leaf-mould, which is a valuable addition, by saving the rakings of the Autumn leaves and turning them occasionally until the following Autumn, when they may be dug into the beds. I do not intend to touch the soil of my Lily and Iris garden for at least four, and possibly five, years, beyond giving it every year a mulch of fine manure or leaf-mould when the plants are well up in the Spring.
All Lilies will flourish in rich loam to which a good proportion of sand has been supplied, and once planted, they should not be removed as long as they are doing well.
But if the leaves fall from the stalks and the bulb seems unhealthy, it should be carefully dug up, any part of the bulb found in a bad condition removed, the bulb dried with a soft cloth and shaken in a paper bag containing powdered sulphur, and replanted immediately. Miss Jekyll recommends this use of sulphur and I have tried it with good results.
It is always a problem how to arrange a garden so that it may be flowering from May until frost, and here were seven large beds to be filled with Lilies and Iris only, and yet kept blooming throughout the season. Of Iris Germanica there were pure white, pale yellow with violet markings,, yellow and brown, and various shades of purple and blue; the lovely "Madam Che-rau," white with a frilled edge of light blue; many varieties of Japanese Iris, white ones predominating, however; Florentine Iris and the English variety Mont Blanc, both of these also white; Siberian Iris, white veined with yellow, and also violet ones; Spanish Iris, growing tall and stately and bearing flowers of wonderful coloring. The foliage of the Spanish Iris is so like the wild onion that I was filled with alarm when I saw the beds in the following April and immediately dug up a bulb to satisfy myself that a crop of onions had not appeared by magic; and, last of all, Chinese Iris, but this did not bloom, although flourishing and green, with foliage quite similar to the Germanica.
Vase of "Brazilian Lilies" June eleventh.
The different varieties were laid out on the floor of the tool room, divided into seven parts, and then planted in the seven beds, some of which were larger than others.
Of Lilies there were Auratum, Speciosum Album and Speciosum Rubrum, Longiflorum, Brownii, Batemanni, Krameri, Leichlinii, Rubellum, Chalcedonicum, Excehum, Su-perbum, Wallacei, Canadense, and Hemero-callis, the yellow Day Lily, in all eight hundred Lilies and five hundred Iris.
The Lilies were divided into seven parts like the Iris, and each bulb was set in sand, a foot in depth, and the small varieties from four to six inches deep. Some were planted in clumps of one or two dozen of a kind, but the rarer and more expensive varieties had only from four to six in a group.
The names of the Lilies somewhat phased the men, I asked one the name of the bulbs on a large package he had just laid down. After a moment's study, he replies, "Oh, they're the Long-i-fellows."
The last of November the beds had a heavy cover of coarse manure. I was afraid of stable litter or leaves, for fear that field mice might burrow in and eat the bulbs. Then came the terrible winter with a degree of cold which that wise person "the oldest inhabitant" described as unknown in his lifetime, and with it the fears that little in the new garden would survive. But the kindly snow spread over all a warm white blanket, which remained from December until March. The garden was uncovered the last of March and by mid-April the beds were green with the shoots of Iris and the bronze-green of the stout Auratum Lilies, and every sunny day new plants appeared to see what the world was like.
Vase of striped Japanese Iris July fourth.
A lady sent me some bulbs which she called "Brazilian Lilies." These bulbs were planted the end of April among the other Lilies. They came up shortly and grew rapidly, beginning to bloom about the end of May and continuing for three weeks. The flowers are quite different from any I have ever seen, the heart of the Lily being pale green shading to yellow, with yellow anthers, and each blossom has five outside petals with fringed edges. The bulb also is unlike other bulbs, being of a consistency between a Bermuda onion and a beet. They are tender, requiring to be stored like Gladioli during the Winter. After blossoming, the plant makes a beautiful foliage that in itself is most ornamental. I wish I knew where these bulbs might be procured, as they are the greatest addition to the Lily garden.
Tiger Lilies are not grown in this garden, but flourish and increase on the edges of shrubberies and along a stone wall, which latter place seems to be their natural habitat.