This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol2", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
Although a more or less thriving and increasing trade is done by bulb merchants and nurserymen in the bulbs of a large number of species of Lilium, market growers confine their attentions practically to only three species, namely, L. candidum, L. lancifolium (or speciosum), and L. longiflorum - the last-named being the favourite.
L. candidum - the famous Madonna Lily - grows 3-6 ft. high, and has ivory-white sweet-scented blossoms 3-4 in. across, ten to thirty in a truss on finely grown plants, but more often half a dozen. They appear naturally in the open air in June, but that is too late for the commercial grower, who wants to be first in the market to secure the best prices to pay him for his outlay and trouble. He pays 16s. to 20s. per 100 for his bulbs, and proceeds to put three of them into a 6-in. (32) pot, in good loamy soil early in the autumn. The stock is covered with a few inches of soil, and root action soon commences. The plants are then brought into a warm greenhouse, and the increased temperature causes more rapid growth, so that the flowers may be had in March, April, and May, if required. Each bulb or plant produces on an average about six saleable flowers - some more, some less - and they fetch anything from Is. to 3s. per dozen in the market. The blooms are taken off singly and packed three or four dozen in a shallow box with tissue paper, care being taken to pick off the swinging anthers, so that the pollen shall not tarnish the glistening purity of the petals. If not forced too severely the bulbs may afterwards be planted out about 6 in. deep in well drained garden soil, and after a period of one or two years' rest, will be fit for gentle forcing again, that is if the plants are not destroyed in the meantime by the terrible lily disease. This attacks the leaves in autumn and winter, and if not checked soon cripples the entire plant. The simplest remedy is to syringe the foliage with boiling water in which a little soft soap has been dissolved, or a little liver of sulphur (1 oz. to 4 gal. of water). The liquid must be applied forcibly with a fine-sprayed syringe or sprayer, and the boiling water will not injure the foliage in the least, but it will kill the fungus.
This is the market grower's Lilium par excellence. It is grown by the hundreds of thousands in all parts of the kingdom from bulbs now chiefly imported in immense quantities from Japan, but formerly from the Bermuda Islands, until the fatal disease almost destroyed the industry in those islands. About seven millions or eight millions of bulbs of L. longiflorum are imported annually at present. The natural species grows 2-3 ft. high in China and Japan, has lance-shaped leaves, and bears from 6-12 large tubular bell-shaped pure-white flowers on top of the stems. There are many varieties, such as giganteum, Harrisi, Wilsoni, eximeum, Takesima, etc, the bulbs of which cost from 36s. to 80s.-per 100 (more or less) wholesale, according to size, condition, etc. By means of forcing and retarding it is now possible to have Lilium longiflorum in blossom for twelve months in the year. While forcing eats up a good deal of the profits in coal and coke, retarding also cuts into the returns, because rent must be paid for storage to refrigerator companies - usually Id. per cubic foot space per month, or from 60s. to 80s. per 100 cub. ft. per annum by special arrangement. Some firms, like Messrs. Rochford & Sons, of Turnford, have their own refrigerating apparatus, which, of course, enables them to keep back or place on the market blooms as required. The photograph shows cut stems of retarded L. longiflorum in bud (in the centre), and L. speciosum open and in bud in tubs of water. The flowers of L. longiflorum are packed for the Paris and other markets in the bud state, so that they may arrive in just the right condition. When it is desired to force L. longiflorum three or four bulbs are put in a well-drained 8-in. pot, the soil used being a good turfy loam with some leaf mould, or well-rotted manure. Although the plants are to be had in bloom all the year round, the great trade in them is done at Easter and Christmas time. They are cut with stems as long as possible, and packed firmly in long shallow boxes, some growers sending almost 20,000 blooms to market in one week. (See plate).
This fine Japanese Lilium is - next to L. longiflorum - the most popular with market growers, who still know it well under the name of lancifolium. It grows from 3-5 ft. high, and has several varieties - some being deep red and rose spotted with carmine purple, others being white and without spots. The variety called rubrum, having white flowers suffused and heavily spotted with crimson, is one of the best red ones; while album Kroetzeri is one of the purest and best whites. The bulbs are placed in pots, and the plants are grown in the same way as L. longiflorum. The flowers are sold on the long zigzag stems, or separately packed in shallow boxes. The white variety is in great demand with florists for wreath and bouquet work, and has succeeded in almost driving out the flowers of Eucharis grandiflora, at one time greatly prized for this business. Other greenhouse Liliums are Browni, nepalense, and sulphureum, which are grown in fair quantities at times. In growing these Liliums under glass the grower has to guard against attacks of Greenfly, which often infest the unopened buds and cripple them. This pest is best kept down by vaporizing, or by syringing the plants with nicotine, quassia, and soft-soap emulsions.
Fig. 285. - Lilium speciosum.