As all the colours are pleasing Ixias are usually grown from a mixture of choice bulbs, but connoisseurs in this beautiful African Corn Lily like to pot separate sorts as a means of showing them at their best and gaining special colour combinations in the conservatory.
White, with indigo eye.
White, with crimson centre.
A true green, with black centre.
Azure, with violet centre.
Yellow, with Hack centre.
Lilac-blue, with black centre.
Ixias are among the cheapest bulbs, the named ones only about a couple of shillings a dozen, so I prefer to pot fresh supplies annually, and put the flowered potsful into shrubbery foregrounds where sunshine comes and cold winds are shut off. They are very suitable bulbous plants for the borders in greenhouses that are never heated in winter except to keep out frosts, and we can scarcely have too big a supply of flowers of their perfect qualities for vase-filling.
Few persons are acquainted with the little Chilian Crocus (Tecophilaea), which has blue and white flowers in spring that give off a sweet perfume. Those who wish to know it should pot each bulb singly in a four-inch pot, 2 inches deep, using the compost recommended for Ixias. It is necessary to cover the pots over with ashes or coco-nut-fibre refuse in a cool frame or glasshouse until growth starts, then cultivate like Ixias again, or else keep the plants at all times without any artificial heat. Dry off pot specimens and re-start at the correct months, potting into fresh compost and removing any offsets that may have formed.
One of the ways of becoming renowned as a greenhouse owner is to cultivate quantities of the exquisite white flower known as the Eucharis, but a summer temperature of 700 or more, a winter one not less than 55°, and a spring one ten degrees higher than this, must be certain, therefore the greenhouse must be actually a stove. Plants once grown up are kept in active life, not dried off, though little water is needed from October to April. Place six bulbs in a ten-inch pot, using a compost of two parts loam to one part each of decayed sheep-manure and coarse sand, sprinkling all with powdered charcoal. If there is a hot-bed the pots may be plunged in it to start the bulbs. As the leaves arise see that they are moistened occasionally: throughout its career the Eucharis must be syringed, except in damp foggy spells, and spongings of the beautiful glossy foliage is also desirable, about once every ten days, using a teaspoonful of carbolic powder in a gallon of water. Repot once in every four years, then remove any offsets that may have formed, potting them singly in small pots. An uncommon pot-plant is always welcome in our greenhouses, and few flower-lovers can name the Butterfly Iris, or Moraea iridioides, when shown it.
The height is a merit, though the variety Moraea iridioides Johnsoni is taller still, often towering a yard above the soil. The former is white, with dark blotches; the latter has orange-blotched white blooms, with lavender in the centre. They are produced in branching spikes, and are attractive for many weeks. One method of culture is to grow five in a small pot, but I prefer three in one of five-inch size. Plant in September or October, then again in January, 3 inches deep, in compost as for Ixias, keep covered, or plunged in cold frame or greenhouse until growth begins. Introduce to a temperature of 6o° when well developed, to hasten bloom, or cultivate entirely without heat, but protected from frost. Dry off after flowers are over, begin to water very slightly a few months later, and repot when growth again appears. Moraeas can be used in sunny, sheltered, well-drained borders out of doors: there are several species, heights vary from 1/2 foot to 3 feet, colours include blues, reds, violets, and creamy yellow; so the gardener should obtain as many kinds as he can, in addition to those named above, which are familiar articles of horticultural commerce.
Another uncommon bulbous plant is Anomatheca Cruenta, also a native of the Cape of Good Hope, and belonging to the order Iridace‘. It resembles the Ixia, blooms naturally from June to October, is crimson, about a foot in height. Five bulbs may be put into a six-inch pot, in September, and then treated like Moraeas.
Of the interest of a greenhouse devoted wholly to bulbous plants there could be no question,. and it is regrettable how seldom floriculture is pursued so as to combine an intellectual feast as well as one of colour, form, and perfume.
Again, the amateur gardener who has other occupations, selected or necessitated, therefore scant time for a hobby, would frequently score finer successes by learning thoroughly how to deal with one type of plant, instead of studying vegetables, fruit, hardy annuals, herbaceous perennials, and 'bedding stuff,' with perhaps a flutter at cactus culture and a passing craze for ferns. Of course the needs of bulbs vary, but only in detail; the whole bulb family has common characteristics.
If a greenhouse is not all given up to bulbous plants it is often easy to set apart a portion of it for them, there to display old favourites in modern perfectness, and new introductions from far fields and mountains, sandy plains and rich-soiled forests. Most bulbous plants in their original forms may be slightly forced when about to develop their flowers, many can be.
Double Poet's Narcissus, that must mot be forced had early by merely giving them the protection of glass; the great majority ought to be covered from light and from drying air, from the potting season to the passing of their beauty, so if the gardener is ever in doubt how to manage a rare subject obtained from abroad, the rules for Ixia growing had better be followed. Though Freesias are not covered in, they would grow and pierce through either ashes or coconut-fibre without difficulty, provided they escaped the peril of damping-off in infancy. As for suitable temperatures, bulbs from hot steamy regions desire heat or hot-bed treatment to start them, while bulbs from hot arid lands are usually accustomed to lying dormant during winter and will wake to fresh life when they feel genial moisture.
Exceptions to all theories there must be, and they but render theories more fascinating. Who would have imagined, for instance, that while the Double and the ordinary Single Poet's Narcissus must not be forced - (the latter pot-cultivated, if kept cool, but the former not even to be conquered in that fashion) - the Single species Narcissus poeticus ornatus will bear all styles of culture, even that consisting of china drainless bowls, moss-fibre, sea-shell, and water!
Probably far more of our already known bulbous plants would submit to potting and forcing. And undoubtedly lands far away teem with beauties only waiting to be welcomed in England.