There have been many ways of forcing the pip into flower. The English growers use ordinary loam as we use sand, and Mr. Simpson asserts that they (the English) produce larger spikes and finer flowers than are grown here, but does not attribute that to cultivation so much as obtaining a uniformly high grade of roots and being very particular that they are first-class. A firm that grows annually six millions of pips, as does Thomas Rochford, near London, deserves certainly to get the best there is in the market. Germany supplies them and is likely to Supply them for a long time.
Flower Spray of Lily of the Valley.
In obtaining the pips get the very best you can. Don't be guided by any tacked-on, absurd title, but find out a good source or good man, and when you are well treated stick to that man. Unless you get a well developed crown that contains a good spike of flowers in an embryonic size your most skillful and faithful care will not produce a good flower.
When brought in to force the tips of the roots are chopped off. They make no fibrous root while growing, but I don 't believe the roots should be chopped off too short. So the boxes, if you use boxes, should be five inches deep, leaving the pips just above the surface of the sand. You can place the roots as close as they will conveniently go in the trench of sand and three inches between the rows. Some growers place an inch of sphagnum between the pips on the surface of the box and when the boxes are going on the pipes I think it a good plan. Large growers who use beds of sand do not bother with moss, and under the conditions it is not necessary.
I have grown fairly good valley in boxes placed on the pipes. Raise the boxes a few inches from the pipes by strips of wood. The first ten days we place over pipes that have a good, strong heat, then remove for a few days to some pipes that are not so warm and a little more light, and when color begins to show remove them to the top of a bench, but still shaded from the sun. Always avoid wetting the bells after showing color, but before that syringe frequently and water the sand daily. When lily of the valley is about fully expanded (that is, the top bells) the sprays can be cut and placed in water in bunches for twenty-four hours. They travel and keep better than those freshly cut, as do most all flowers.
Large growers (and this plan is better far than the boxes with those that want, say, from 1,000 to 2,000 a week) is to put the roots at once into six inches of sand in the bed. A small, narrow-house, with a northern aspect, such as you often see on the north side of an old-fashioned, three-quarter-span house, would be an excellent place to grow the valley. Top, or atmospheric, heat is not of consequence, but one or two pipes on the side of the wall or path are advisable to be used in very severe weather. The bench should be boarded up back and front. If you don't have any pipes except under the bench have one of the front boards hinged so that it can be opened in very severe weather to warm the air of the house, for in those times when you are firing so hard you can spare the heat from beneath the bench. In a section of bench in an ordinary house this is not needed because the house is always warm enough.
The bench should be of roofing slate over which you spread half an inch of cement, all of which is a good conductor of heat. Mr. Simpson says that under the bench should be four 2-inch pipes or three 4-inch. If steam, that would do, but better have five 2-inch hot waater pipes or four 4-inch. There should be a 12-inch board above the bench, back and front, the front one movable for convenience in planting, cutting, etc. These boards should be high enough so that when the shading is put on it would be four or five inches above the tops of the fully developed flowers. It is bottom heat that is the great requisite, as we all know, and the earliest forced bulbs want about 85 degrees, gradually lessening the heat, till in April, near their natural time of growing, 65 to 70 is enough.
I would like to be very explicit about the making of a forcing bed, for there are some points of importance. The top board on the front or path side of the bed should be one foot ana it should be hinged just at the surface of the sand. Why this is important is that when the little plants are in flower or just opening their bells you can let down this top board and water the bed without wetting the flowers or buds, and this is very important.
For the first ten days, or till the pips have grown three or four inches, they are covered with wooden shutters which almost entirely exclude the light, then these are replaced by cloth shutters; cheese-cloth oiled and fastened on frames will do nicely and the last few days these are removed and they are given full light, but no direct sunlight. I have often noticed in handling valley that was in boxes that even if fully developed it quickly wilts if exposed to any draught.
This same place will do for the summer and fall growing, but little bottom heat is needed, though shade and watering are the same. In summer in addition to the portable shading over the plants the house should be shaded and made as cool as possible.
We always handle a good many of the flowers during the short week they are in bloom out of doors, and very poor stuff they often are. A heavy shower will quickly ruin them. Every florist who has the ground should have some beds outside, planted with good pips. The beds will last for years. They should be made the size of your frames or planted in permanent frames. Then when winter was over you could put on the sash and with water and shade produce some very fine flowers and foliage several days ahead of the common, unprotected stuff.
Lily of the Valley Forced on Hot Water Pipes.
Lily of the Valley from Pips out of Cold Storage.
Some six years ago we planted several thousand roots of imported valley which cost only $3 per thousand. They did not flower till last year, but increased in strength each year. This spring one bed was covered with sash and shaded, with the result that we cut a crop of grand flowers which you would not believe were from the same roots as those unprotected. The trouble with the outside beds is that they are left too long without transplanting and become a mass of roots with no soil left to feed on.
It would be also possible with the aid of some ice and shade to retard your crop a week or ten days after the outside flowers were gone, all of which would be much cheaper than the most ready way of forcing the imported pips.
Lily of the valley can never recede in public favor. It has all the attributes that appeal to the most refined and delicate senses. Its grace and simple beauty are unsurpassed and its delicate odor is loved by all. Even supposing you don't get more than seventy-live per cent of good flowers, then it is a more profitable flower to the grower and retailer than almost anything you handle, and there is no greenhouse where provision could not be made for its successful culture.
Pans and pots of it sell at Christmas and Easter. They can be treated just as described above, but a better way is to select roots with some perfect flowers and foliage and put them into the pans when in full bloom. There is no fraud about this, as if kept moist they last just as long as those grown in the pans from the start and will have a better appearance. I have never had any satisfaction from the imported clumps and would not advise any one to bother with them.