Within thirty years, and with many more recently, the forcing of tulips, hyacinths and narcissi has become a most important part of our winter operations. About twenty years ago it was at its zenith, but as the best methods of forcing became widely known and in consequence vast quantities were imported and the blooms thrown on the market, the public began to tire of the flowers, till during the last few years they have dropped seriously in price and hundreds of thousands of fine flowers were sold at about the cost of the bulbs.
These remarks do not apply to the good old Dutch hyacinth that we grow in a 4-inch pot. They have been grown in pots and glasses for a hundred years and always will be. There are few sweeter flowers for the price than a nice spike of hyacinth. People know them and don't ask "How long Mill they last?" They think rightly that they have received good value for their money if they have had a pot of hyacinth in their window for ten days. Large quantities of fine hyacinths are also grown for Easter in pans, from three to a dozen in a pan. The latter quantity of some fine distinct variety in a 12-inch pan is a rich affair and generally attracts the purchaser who is looking for something nice to send to his or her friend on Easter morn. The Von Sion narcissus, or daffodil, as it is familiarly called, also makes fine pans.
Roman hyacinths are still flowered in immense quantities, and fashion has not changed the demand. They are graceful, waxy white flowers and can be used in several ways, either by themselves or in combination with roses, violets or carnations.
If you want tulips or Von Sions, Paper White narcissi or Roman hyacinths at the earliest possible date they can be got in flower, you should not delay a day in getting a portion of your shipment into the flats, and they should be well watered and covered at once. The Romans arrive in August, the Paper White a little later, and the tulips, hyacinths and narcissi along in September.
While the soil need not be of any special preparation, it should not be a very poor, worn-out quality, for the better the soil, the finer will be your flowers. We have noticed a marked increase in the size of tulips and narcissi by feeding with liquid manure after being brought in to force. In that case they were for exhibition. For ordinary purposes the soil that comes from a carnation bed will be found to answer the purpose, for that has received a liberal amount of manure.
I found out many years ago that boxes and flats of every size and shape for forcing bulbs was a poor plan, however cheap, and for years have made boxes of one pattern, which is twenty-four inches long, twelve inches wide and three inches deep, all inside measure. I buy strips sixteen feet long (any length will do, but you don't want waste), three inches wide and half an inch thick, and some strips three inches wide and one inch thick. Four of the thin strips make the bottom, with a little space between them, two of them make, the sides and the 1-inch thick strips make the ends. They are nailed together with 6-penny nails and two or three boys will make 150 of them in a few hours. These boxes will last several years if cleaned out and piled with their bottoms up, but not if allowed to lie around the yard half full of soil till the following fall, or run over by the wagon, or when used to carry plants to a bedding job to be left there ana not called for.
Oh, florists, I am not immaculate myself in this respect, but how many dollars you do waste in letting your boxes, pots, flats, tools and implements lie around in disorder. You are about as bad as the slovenly farmers in a poor, poverty-stricken farming district which is always to be found without going very far. It is well known and admitted by the manufacturer that if the American farmer took good care of his agricultural implements and tools half the factories could and would close down. The scythe is hung in the apple-tree, the plow is thrown out at the end of the last furrow to bleach and rot in the sun and rain, the harrow may be dignified by being tilted up against the fence, and the costly reaper lies out in the yard for the children and chickens to perch on. There is no time to clean and put things away. The gossip of the village smithy or rural postoffice must be attended to. The prosperous farmer's place is all contrary to this, and as the florist is farming on a high grade and costly plan, where the outlay and receipts to the acre are enormous, it behooves him to take care of all his implements and have them ship shape and in place where they are always ready to his hand.
Some men can do twice as much on an acre as another. It is order, system and cleanliness that enable him to do it. "Dirt is matter out of place." That is a true definition. I once found fault with a man, who was then a partner, that his rubbish pile contained everything from decent potting soil to broken glass, hoop iron and empty beer bottles. He rather peevishly replied that he had no time to spare and was glad to get rid of the stuff out of the green-' houses. That " time" excuse is the worst of all and the man who lets his wagon stand out in the sun till the hubs are cracked has always the most time to spin a yarn or see how much old Bill Jones' cows bring at the auction. If my friend had had a pile for stuff that was purely rubbish and another for old soil and plants and vegetable matter that would come useful some day it would have been much time saved in the end and some money.
With this diversion we will return to the bulbs. The flats as described will hold sixty Romans, fifty Paper Whites and from sixty to seventy-two tulips, according to the size. Yellow Prince is a large bulb, La Reine is a small one. I believe, as Mr. Ernst As-mus said at Chicago years ago, that it makes little difference in the flowering how close the bulbs are. Even if touching they will flower all right and save room.