We always do our bulb boxing outside on a temporary bench where the soil can be brought to the men by the cart load. We fill the flats nearly full, very loosely, and squeeze the bulb into the soil till the top of the bulb is even with the edge of the box. A few hand-fuls of the soil fill up between the bulbs and the job is done. All this is a very quick operation. A good man will box 8,000 to 10,000 a day if supplied with boxes and soil and another man to take the boxes away when filled.
Bulb houses have been spoken of, but I never saw the need of them. We once tried our earliest tulips under the bench of a very cool house, covered with an inch of soil. It was an entire failure. There is no better place for the flats when filled than the surface of the open ground. We smooth off a piece of ground and lay out beds six or seven feet wide and any desired length, leaving the same widths between beds. We lay down strips of old boards to keep the bottom of the flats away from the soil. When one bed is covered with flats we get out the hose and thoroughly water the soil in the boxes. When the water has soaked in we dig up the ground between the beds and cover the bulbs with this soil about three inches deep. We never cut down the soil nearer than a foot from the end or side of the boxes, because they want to be well protected there. The frost is sure to penetrate into the beds from the sides, if anywhere.
Nothing more is done to the beds for a month or two, or till severe winter weather sets in, excepting it be a very dry time. If it is dry give the beds a thorough watering every week. Remembers the bulbs are not as though they were planted out, and they get none of the benefit of the moisture arising from the depths of the ground, as they would if planted in it, and the oulbs will not make roots unless the soil is kept moist. About the middle of December we throw on about four inches of stable manure. It is just as well to let the soil in the flats be slightly frozen before covering with the manure, as it will stop the bulbs from growing up too long. If too much manure is put on it will encourage the bulbs to draw up to a great length before spring, which will greatly injure their handling.
In many years we have never had any difficulty in getting them in to force. A mild day is sure to come, and you can then get in enough for several weeks, keeping some of them in reserve in a cool shed. If unprotected by snow and the covering of soil is frozen we bring in covering and all and clean them off when thawed out. Out of doors is their natural place and I believe it is better for the bulbs to make their roots there than in any house or cellar you could build.
Paper White narcissi we do not allow to freeze, giving them the protection of glass in addition to the manure, but they are mostly into the houses before very hard weather.
Roman hyacinths will stand some freezing, but must not be handled when frozen. If frozen bring in the whole covering with them and let them thaw out in a very cool shed. If when frozen they are put suddenly into heat, as you would a tulip, they will be ruined.
The Dutch hyacinths in pots we stand in a frame on dry ashes and after covering with soil and litter prefer to cover with shutters or glass to prevent very hard freezing. Freezing may not hurt the bulbs, but it breaks the pots and pans.
Roman hyacinths and Paper White narcissi can be had in bloom from the first of November on. They want the light and no extra heat at any time. Both are better when brought on slowly. The Paper White, if well rooted, should have seven weeks in a light house at a temperature of 60 degrees; then it will be in good order for Christmas. As the season advances Romans require less and less time under glass. During March and April two weeks in any house will bring them into flower.
Hyacinths in Basket Trimmed with White Ribbon.
Paper White Narcissus.
The Von Sion narcissi differ some from the tulips in their handling. While the tulips are best left out of doors till you want to start them in heat, the Von Sion that you want to cut through January and February you can bring in about the end of November and place beneath a cool bench. They will go on rooting and in January will be sending up their flowers, which will develop a good stem in a temperature of 55 or 60 degrees. These should be, of course, the earliest planted bulbs.
For years we struggled to get tulips in flower at Christmas, and with the Duc Van .Thol, and even with some of the finer early tulips, we were successful. But what is there in it when you have succeeded? There are plenty of other flowers for all purposes, and fancy trying to sell a dozen forced and sickly tulips when a dozen fine carnations can be had. So we" have left tulips alone till after New Year's, when, if brought in, they can be had in fine quality by the end of January or a few days before, and that is as soon as they are wanted.
The earliest tulips want a strong heat -75 degrees is not too much - with plenty of water, and they need shading with cheese-cloth or some such material to produce a good stem. Up to the first of March they need heat, with lessening shade; after that they flower on any greenhouse bench, the last ones to flower inside wanting a light house, as they are apt to have long, weak stems.
The conditions to produce the early tulips are heat, moisture and shade, but not heat that will burn the roots. On the pipes is no place for them; it is heat around the young growths that is wanted, not at the roots.
The varieties I mentioned for bedding are the very best for forcing. When wanted for any special date, like Easter, and they are a few days too early, you can help to keep the tulips in good order by putting the flats under the bench when the flowers are about fully developed and covering with paper, which prevents the opening and closing that takes. place on every fine sunny day.
Hyacinths in pots and pans need no forcing towards spring, coming on very quickly as soon as brought into the greenhouse. It is impossible to give any fixed time to allow for these bulbs to come into flower, as seasons vary so much.
Besides the Von Sion narcissus there are several Trumpet varieties that force well and are most desirable. Incomparable, Trumpet Major, Emperor, Empress, and especially fine is Golden Spur.
This very spring a Holland bulb grower cautioned us that these narcissi were by no means as hardy as a tulip and in Holland they had lost many in the ground when there was only 10 degrees of frost. It is well to bear this in mind and give them more protection than we do the tulips.
The Polyanthus narcissi are beautiful in form and color and are fragrant. They force well, but should not be exposed to frost at any time. They are not profitable for the commercial man, but are beautiful for the private conservatory. The Narcissus poeticus and its fine variety ornatus are both hardy and force well, and so do the elegant sweet-scented jonquils.