This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
A splendid genus of Tulip-like bulbs, which have for many years been allowed to remain in oblivion. They were first introduced by Douglas between forty'and fifty years ago; but, like many other gems of Liliacere, their wants were misunderstood, and they were by-and-by looked upon as desirable things which it was impossible to grow satisfactorily. They were planted in frames or in pots under glass protection, and were lifted and dried every autumn and replanted again on the return of spring. This practice is ruinous to many bulbs; it is so to these. "Whether planted in frames or out of doors, they should not be frequently disturbed if they are doing well; there is no reason of a cultural kind for lifting them, except it be for the purpose of dividing the offsets, which do not increase rapidly. It is not the simple act of lifting them that proves injurious, but the practice of storing them away dry and exposing them directly to the action of the air. This weakens them in a greater or less degree according as they are planted timeously or not, No doubt in cold wet soils the roots may suffer harm in winter if left in the open ground; but though lifting is undoubtedly the proper course to take in such circumstances, it will be found better to pot the bulbs immediately after they are lifted, and to store them in a cold frame, or anywhere under cover where they may be kept cool without being exposed to frost, and sufficiently dry without being subjected to the direct influence of the atmosphere.
These bulbs prefer a peaty compost, but thrive well in sandy loam if well drained. They make pretty pot-plants for exhibition purposes, and also for greenhouse decoration, but being autumn-flowering subjects chiefly, they are not likely to obtain much favour generally when brought into competition with the more profuse and more easily managed, but not more interesting and beautiful Pelargoniums, which to a large extent monopolise the greenhouse in autumn. As exhibition plants they might do good service at the autumn shows among others in the classes of Alpine and herbaceous plants.
A small-growing kind, from 6 to 9 inches high. The flowers, three in number on each stem, are large compared with the size of the plant, bearded and fringed with woolly hairs on the inside of the inner petals. Blooms in June and July.
This sort is, we believe, recently introduced for the first time to English gardens by Messrs Backhouse of York. It has very large white flowers 2 to 3 inches across the inner petals, having a purple blotch at the base of each.
One of the finest of the group, but not, we believe, in cultivation at the present time. It grows to the height of about 18 inches, bearing two large purple flowers on each stem, the petals handsomely bearded at the base. Flowers in August.
A golden-yellow sort, growing about a foot high. Several flowers are borne on each stem; they are pendant, globular in form, and regularly and sharply fringed on the margin. They appear in August.
One of the handsomest of the family; the flowers are very large, 2 to 3 inches across, white shading into yellow and crimson at the base of the petals, which are also bearded near the base.