This large and handsome genus of bulbous plants gives us a few species that are of first importance to the florist. All are beautiful and where there is an opportunity for their cultivation in the garden few flowering plants can be of more interest. They are widely scattered over the northern hemisphere and the majority of them are hardy in our northern clime.
The most important species to the florist is L. longiflorum. I will say here that there are several varieties of some species. The variated character is principally difference of color or markings of the flower. The lily that is known as L. Harrisii, or the Bermuda lily, must be a variety of longiflorum which the mild climate of Bermuda has through years of cultivation produced. There are certainly characteristics possessed by it sufficient to make it a distinct variety. The leaves are thinner and less glaucous, the petals lack the substance of longiflorum, the flower is larger, and it is more easily forced into flower. Briefly, the plant has not the substance of the true longiflorum. All of these traits are what could be expected after years of cultivation in a semi-tropical climate, for except in coloring what is it that produces variations but environment? Within ten years the Japan-grown bulbs of L. longiflorum have almost exclusively been grown for Easter. They are free of disease and in stoutness of texture of leaf and flower more nearly resemble the original species. Mr. Farquhar, of Boston, who has traveled extensively in the islands of Japan, tells us that the lily industry is confined to the temperate northern islands and the bulbs are too often dug before being ripe, and this accounts for the Japan bulbs being occasionally very unsatisfactory. Mr. Farquhar further adds that if the lily industry was taken up in the southern islands they would have climatic conditions that would produce as early matured bulbs as Bermuda. Another reason why we should not be too severe on the dealers who sell us Japan bulbs is the fact that they don't always get what they have bought ana paid for. Although the Japanese deserve and have received the admiration of the world for their ability and conduct of war; yet as business men they are very unreliable and do not always stick to a bargain.
The following cultural directions are suitable for the Harrisii, Bermuda-grown longiflorum and Japan longiflorum, except some slight differences which will be noticed. At present the Harrisii and what we know as Bermuda longiflorum (the latter is the true longiflorum taken to Bermuda and grown a few years) are all imported from the Bermuda islands and what with the disease and the tariff the bulbs within three years have about doubled in cost to us. Doubtless there are experiments going on and surely somewhere in our southern states in the broad millions of square miles we have, some place will be found where the longiflorum can be grown and ripened early enough to give us bulbs for Easter forcing.
As soon as you receive the bulbs get them potted without delay. The bulbs are loose-scaled, quite different from a tulip, and would be injured by lying around exposed to the air. We once tried (as a means of saving labor) to force our 5x7 bulbs in square boxes holding a dozen plants and about five inches of soil. It was by no means a success. They were very awkward to handle, and for some reason not accounted for a large percentage came blind.
Large growers of early forced lilies find from experience that the 7x9 bulbs pay them best. They get a few more flowers to the plant, they stand high forcing better and fewer come blind, so for these important reasons we must recommend the 7x9 bulbs for Christmas flowering.
We put the 7x9 bulbs in 6-inch pots, leaving the top of bulb about even with surface of soil. For those we want early, say for December cutting, we put at once on the bench in a shady house and after one watering cover the pots lightly with excelsior. It keeps them from drying out and does not prevent the lily from pushing up. Remove it as soon as the growth is up an inch. Water sparingly till the growth starts. As there are few roots they don't want much water. Later batches of this size we put outside in frames and there the few inches of covering are of still greater service, as the sun would daily dry out and bake the soil. Be sure that the frames you stand them in have dry bottoms and that water does not remain under the pots.
I like to have the lilies in frames, because if we get several days of copious rain, say in September, it would be altogether too much for them. And there you have at hand the means of covering them with glass.
Whether started in the house or in a frame these lilies should be well rooted before they are given much forcing. By early November many of them will be well advanced and can be given a good heat, and as they show their buds they will endure strong forcing. The manager of a large establishment who said he would have 15,000 lilies for Thanksgiving, answered to a query: " Yes, they will take all the heat you can give them. We often give them 80 and 90 degrees at night." But don't expect them all in so early. They come along in succession and are always in demand.
We have often had occasion to remark that the lily was one of the most profitable of plants. No matter whether it be the well grown Easter plant or the cut spike in December or January, there is no time when the lily is not welcome and does not find admirers; the short season they occupy the benches and the comparatively small space they are grown in make them a profitable crop. You should have one house or at least part of a house where you have the means of keeping a night temperature of 70 degrees in any weather or you can't get the Bermuda lilies in bloom by Christmas. This house would not only force the lilies, but it would hasten your Christmas azaleas, finish off your azaleas and a number of other things.