This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", 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.
ONE of the first things that occurs to a would-be Lily-grower is how and where to procure bulbs. If cost is no object, he has only to write out an order for large sound bulbs from any of the numerous catalogues or advertisements at hand. In most cases this simple plan succeeds, so far as the getting of good bulbs goes; but if he who plants Lilies, like the wise builder of houses, first sits down and considers the cost, he will - he will do well! In the beautiful coloured plate of Lilies presented to the readers of the ' Gardeners' Chronicle; some time ago, a lovely long-tubed Lily is figured. Its name is L. neilgher-rense. It is barely hardy, but may be started in a pot and planted out in May or June, and is so lovely that it ought to be grown by the dozen in all good gardens. If you write an order for a dozen bulbs at 15s. each, it only comes to £9; but if you want really good strong bulbs, you pay a guinea each for them, or a trifle of a guinea or so more if the very finest bulbs are desired.
I believe the best bulbs are preferable - sure to bloom, you know.
Lilium Wallichianum is another nice kind, rather tender and difficult to grow, as a rule. You plant it in a pot very carefully : sometimes it comes up, sometimes not. The price is pretty much what you like, up to three guineas a bulb. Nothing less than 15s. will get you a decent bulb of this kind; and if you want to make quite sure of ever seeing it in bloom, pay £20 to £36 for a dozen bulbs, and you may be gratified. Nothing like a good start in plant-growing : order a dozen bulbs at once.
In the 'Garden' of February 12th of the current year there is a lovely plate of a lovely Indian Lily - L. polyphyllum. It is moderately hardy on warm well-drained soils, but it is more safe to grow it in pots. You can get a dozen strong-flowering bulbs of it for L50, or perhaps for a little less. It is a little expensive, perhaps, but it is a pretty thing - very nearly a hardy flower, in fact, so of course it is valuable. Bedding-plants are vulgar. Orchids are dear. "Consider the Lilies," my friend !