'Who dreamed the frozen mould These elfin cups might hold? Amethyst, ivory, gold!'
Agnes S. Falconer.
THE fact has scarcely been realized, or at least has not been sufficiently stated in gardening literature, that immense effects are to be gained from very small flowers: that, viewed in one light, they are more effective than are many of our popular large flowering plants.
Take the Giant Sunflower as an example. The golden blossoms are grand against blue sky, but what a dreary length of stem and mere foliage mass supports them, and how they need carpeting round in order that the cheerfulness of their beds or borders shall be secured!
Take the blue Chionodoxa as example of a small flower that produces displays bound to be remembered. The Cornflower colour, laid over yards of ground, in shrubbery glades, on bank sides by the house windows or doorsteps, on rockeries that flank the carriage sweep, in belts in border fronts, over plots beneath almond or orchard trees, as bold rings round golden-privet clumps, or as lawn beds, will not let itself be forgotten.
Gardeners waste the smaller bulbous plants habitually by using them too cautiously or scattering large quantities in little groups about the borders.
Think of a long grass walk in earliest spring, then picture it fully flanked by Crocus gold, Chionodoxa blue, the white of Snowdrops, and if you possess a turf path at all you will be unsatisfied till you have laid foundations for this glory. I can almost say that merely narrow edgings of Crocuses are an abomination! Only those who have seen fields of the violet, blue, red-purple, mauve, white, know how we dishonour a flower of tremendous possibilities.
The Snowdrop is dear to us for several reasons: its earliness and pluck in piercing the frosty earth, its message of hope, the fact that the type, Galanthus Nivalis, was once an English wildflower; but for these facts we might reasonably choose to give white Crocuses its space in our grounds. Of course, the fact that it thrives under tall trees gives it extra value, but for earliest results it must be in sunshine.
The Italians love the 'Snowbell'; the Russian version, Galanthus Plicatus, a native of the fields of the Crimea, is smaller than Galanthus Nivalis, but goes on later in the year. Bulbs of this are cheap, and I recommend them for extensive use in the grass of orchards and wild gardens: the flowers, though greenish, and not pure white, are on stems often 6 inches long, so are useful for the vases.
There is a double variety of Galanthus Nivalis, also one (Galanthus Imperati) that is really quite tall and very fine; yet undoubtedly the loveliest Snowdrop is the big globular Galanthus Elwesii.
Plant Snowdrop bulbs 2 inches deep and 2 inches apart, or closer if desired, and do not interfere with them in any way for years, not until they prove to you, by yielding very scarce blooms, or puny ones, that they require division. Mulch round them each December with a mixture of leaf-mould and really decayed manure.
Pot Snowdrop bulbs I inch deep and 1 inch apart any time from September to December, and cover with cinder-ash or coco-nut fibre refuse, in frames, or sink in a cinder-bed until growth begins, when admit light, and introduce into very moderate greenhouse warmth, in the shade, as soon as buds have formed; or else grow on entirely under cold conditions. Pans are as good as pots for Snowdrop culture, and occupy less space in frames.
The first Crocuses that should engage attention are not Meadow Saffrons, as so many persons believe.
Lavender and white.
These should be planted in August, if possible, 2 inches deep, 3 inches apart, and left alone for years, except for the spring mulch of old manure that will strengthen the plants. Or they may be lifted, after blooming and dying down naturally, and be replanted the next August. It is a fine plan to add them, also the following, to all rockeries.
Violet straw-black purple blend.
Lilac and yellow.
The three last are generally earlier than the first. Plant them in September.
Gold, veined black. Early.
Lilac, white bordered.
Violet, tipped white.
Blanc, or King of the Whites.
Blue, striped with purple.
White, striped with violet.
For massing, the gardener can merely order spring Crocuses according to colour, but for beds, window-boxes, urns and potting, named sorts are much better worth cultivation. Plant or pot from October to December; the earlier-located garden bulbs will do best. The ground should be rich, but without any new manure. The compost may consist of equal parts of loam, leaf-mould, and sand, with a half part of ancient manure in small fragments. I have grown very fine Crocuses, indoors and out, by using half a part of fertilized Hop Manure instead of any other; and Crocuses in the garden seem to revel in a mulch of mixed leaf-mould and Hop Manure applied in January.
Treat potted Crocuses in the usual way - namely, sinking them under cinder-ashes or other safe material, and admitting light by degrees when growth shows. Commence to water them with the same precautions. Do not attempt any rapid forcing, but they may go into ordinary glasshouses, or sunny south-room windows when buds are developing.