CULTIVATION OF THE MOST POPULAR BULBS
Special Hints on each Variety of Bulb
The following is a selection of the most useful bulbs for the amateur’s garden, with cultural hints concerning each:
This is the onion family. A few species are particularly decorative and are grown commonly in the flower garden. They flourish in ordinary well-drainedand can be increased either by offsets or by seeds. The best for the amateur’s garden are:
A. acuminatum, 6-12 in., deep rose.
A. cceruleum (or azureum), 1-2 ft., sky blue.
A. Moly, 1-2 ft., bright yellow.
A. Ostrowskyanum, 2 ft., purple.
Amaryllis (Belladonna Lily)
The Lily commonly grown in gardens all the year round in warm districts such as Cornwall and Devon. It has strap-shaped leaves and fragrant, rosy lily-like flowers in August and September. Sometimes called “Cornish Lily.” Several modern hybrids are obtainable which are rather more vigorous than the type.
It is best to leave the bulbs undisturbed for four or five years but when transplanting is necessary, do it after the foliage has died down. In dry weather, plants benefit from a mulch of well-rotted manure.
Bulbocodium (Bidbos, a bulb, kondion, wool)
Small bulbs with a “woolly” outer covering which gives them their name. The species commonly grown in the garden is B. vemum, which has small crocus-like flowers of violet colour in January and February.
Calochortus (Mariposa Lily)
These can be grown in the open air though it is common to grow them in pots, or in cold frames., as they have to be protected from frosts. Also they do not like excessive moisture during the resting period. Planting time is from September to the end of November, 3 in. deep and 3 in. apart. Plant in sandy leafy soil and protect during the winter months with strawy manure or dried leaves. They like a sunny situation. They can be increased by offsets. White, yellow and mauve varieties are obtainable.
These grow well in ordinary good garden soil but like a warm, fairly sunny situation. They may be increased by offsets. Modern varieties are obtainable in shades of blue, cream and white.
Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)
Perfectly hardy plants suitable for growing in theor for naturalizing on the lawn. They are best left undisturbed for several years. After planting they can be increased by offsets and also by seeds which, however, are slow in reaching maturity. The flowers are mostly brilliant blue with a zone of pure white in the centre.
These plants are rather interesting because the bulbs of one species C. potneridianum are used as a substitute for soap in their native country. Flowers are purplish white in summer, about 2 ft. high.
Colchicum (Meadow Saffron)
C. autumnale, the autumn-flowering colchicum, is the commonest. It is very suitable for naturalizing in grass and is actually a native of meadows in various parts of this country. The flowers are white or purple. Bulbs can be planted as soon as obtainable, in early summer, and will flower in autumn at any time from August to November.
Large bulbs with showy flowers grouped in clusters at tne top of the stem. The ideal position for these in the open garden is along the south side of the greenhouse, but in fairly warm sheltered gardens they will grow well in any beds or borders. They like a deep rich loam with abundance of water, and are frequently seen growing by the waterside.
One of the parents of the garden hybrid now known as Montbretia. Flowers orange red, 2 ft. high.
The gardener groups crocuses into two sections. Spring flowering and autumn flowering. The spring crocuses are well known and are obtainable in all shades of yellow, white, mauve and blue. They can be naturalized in grass or grown as border edgings. Set in small groups between plants of grey-leaved pinks they make a border edging which is interesting both spring and summer and not undecorative in winter. In fact one of the chief advantages of crocuses is that they can be so well grown in association with other plants which will follow them in their season of flower. The bulbs are usually set about 3 in. deep and 3 in. apart in August, and should be allowed to remain undisturbed until they become overcrowded.
Autumn-flowering crocus are planted in exactly the same way, and about the same time, or a little earlier, and if they are lifted from the ground after flowering this should not be done until the following May.
Apart from their use in formal and informal gardens, , and so on, spring-flowering crocuses are fine for indoor decoration if they are grown carefully. They must not, however, be brought into warm rooms until the flower shows colour. If this precaution is taken they can be grown either in pots of soil, bowls of fibre or saucers containing stones and water, as already described.
Large size crocus bulbs should produce about 10 flowers per bulb during the first season after planting. The amateur is well advised to buy the best bulbs if he wishes for good results from indoor cultivation. Named varieties of crocus are offered by the leading nurserymen.
Some of the best are “Queen of the Blues,” “Sultan” (rich purple), “Amethyst” (brilliant blue) and “Snow Storm” (white).
Plants with roundish, flattened tubers or corms, with a depression in the middle of each. They have usually rather ornamental leaves, and the flowers are well-known by their curious corolla, which turns backwards and earns them the title of “Butterfly Flowers.” Many of the Cyclamen are very fragrant.
Some of the Cyclamen are hardy while others are only suitable for greenhouse or indoor culture. The best time for planting hardy species is when they are resting, that is towards the end of summer and beginning of autumn. They can be planted in a corner of the wild garden (they revel in shade) or in pockets of the rockery. The tops of the corms should be just about level with the soil surface, but during the winter a mulch of leaves or old manure from the mushroom bed will keep away the frost from the corms, and also serve as a stimulant to the plant when it begins to grow in spring.
The hardy cyclamen may be grown under glass if preferred, in pots to flower early, that is, during the first three months of the year. Increase is from seed preferably, or by cutting the corms or tubers into pieces. With an eye to each. These pieces are inserted asin sandy peat under a bell glass. Of the hardy kinds the best to grow are C. africanum, C. Count, C. europceum and C. neapolitanum.
The Persian Cyclamen C. persicum (or C. latifolium), is usually treated as a greenhouse plant and grown for indoor culture. This is really a perennial and can be grown for several years, but it is recommended that plants should be raised from seeds every year. These are sown in late summer or in autumn, while some can also be sown in January or February.
An ordinary sandy, containing some leaf soil, should be used in pots or shallow pans for the . Space the seeds out about an inch or two apart, and cover them with about their own depth of fine soil. Temperature should not drop below 45°. Germination is slightly irregular, and seed that does not appear to be growing should not be discarded too quickly. Slugs and snails sometimes trouble them. Lime mixed in equal proportions with a little well-rotted manure and some silver sand is ideal for the final potting. To this a little peat moss litter can be added in order to keep the soil rather more open.
The plants are potted as required from June to August and kept as near the glass as possible, in a cold frame. In September they are brought into the greenhouse and again kept near the glass. Plants may be fed with weak liquid manure made from soot and animal droppings when they are nearly in flower.
A good strain of seeds will produce flowers in every shade of crimson, rose, salmon and white, some of the petals being finely fringed. A mixed collection makes a very decorative shelf in the greenhouse.
Eranthis (Winter Aconite)
Charming little flowers with long golden globes, beneath which is a finely cut circle of green. They are the earliest flowers of the year almost always appearing round about New Year’s Day. The only secret of cultivation is to plant them early, that is as soon as obtainable and to leave them alone for many years at a time. They will gradually increase in number and improve in quality. Plant from 3-4 in. deep and 3-4 in. apart.
Erythronium (Dog’s Tooth Violet)
These are perfectly hardy and very suitable for rockeries and for the edge of the wild garden or shrubbery. They can also be naturalized in grass or woodlands. They like light loam, preferably with the addition of a little peat and leaf-mould. Most species and varieties flower in spring. The colours include rose, purple, white and orange.
These can be grown either in the open garden or indoors, but as they are not quite so hardy as most of the spring-flowering bulbs it is only in the very warmest districts, where the soil is light, that the Freesia can be successfully cultivated as a garden plant. A light top-dressing of coconut fibre is an excellent winter protection in the open. When grown in pots its culture presents little difficulty to owners of cold frames and greenhouses.
Freesias are not quite so amenable to room culture, however, as are Hyacinths and Daffodils. July is the best time to begin. It is best to grow Freesias in soil in pots, not in fibre. The soil should preferably be of a light sandy nature, but with dried cow manure crushed and a little bone-meal added. Half a dozen Freesias can be grown together in a 5- or 6-in. pot, which should stand in the cold frame after potting until the tops begin to show. No further attention need be given until flowers are visible, after which frequent applications of weak liquid manure given after watering will increase the size of the flowers.
Staking is necessary, and is best done by using split bamboos round the sides of the pot, with raffia round the whole.
Some of the modern Freesias are of wonderful colouring, particularly the British Freesias raised by our own hybridists. These are more expensive than the old cream type, and some of them have one defect: that is, they lack fragrance. As the scented Freesias are so generous with their fragrance, however, the owner of a large collection will not miss the fragrance from a few of the coloured beauties. Freesias recommended to the amateur are:
F. refracta (white and orange). May to August, 1 ft. and its varieties “Leichtlini” (yellow, cream and orange), alba (white), and odorata (yellow and very fragrant).
Some of the newer hybrids are:
APOGEE. Large flowers of soft primrose-yellow.
BEAUTY. Very free flowering, with massive foliage and large flowers of soft, rosy pink.
BUTTERCUP. Tall and early flowering. Large flowers of rich prim< rose-yellow with deep orange lip. Scented.
GLOWING EMBERS. Medium-sized flowers on stiff stems.
RED INDIAN. Flowers of medium size. Garnet red.
ROBINETTA. Well-opened flowers of dull rosy-red; one of the deepest coloured Freesias.
Freesias can be grown easily from seed sown in spring and grown on and wintered in the same pot, to flower, without transplanting, the second year.
The bulbs belonging to this genus produce plants of an extremely varied appearance. On the one hand there is the tiny “ Snake’s Head Fritillaria,” F. meleagris, which is grown in grass or on the rockery, and has tiny flowers beautifully veined with purple on a yellow-white ground: some varieties are more nearly rose and white in colour. These Snake’s Head Fritillarias should be planted where they are to remain for some time. They prefer a moist situation and are often found in meadows by the side of rivers that overflow their banks annually.
On the other hand there are the tall “Crown Imperials,” F. imperialis, which send up flower spikes 2-3 ft. high, carrying a bunch of green leaves at the top, and immediately below these a cluster of large drooping bell flowers, varying in colour from yellow to crimson. These grow in any well-dug garden soil.
No garden should be without its collection of Snowdrops if only because they are the earliest flowers of the year and are welcomed always as the real “Heralds of Spring.” Moreover, the Snowdrop is so happy in our British gardens that a few planted one season will, in a few years, make a surprisingly showy group. They are best planted in some situation where they can remain undisturbed. For instance, a liberal handful of bulbs set under each fruit tree in the orchard garden is most successful. Early planting is best in the case of Snowdrops, that is, not later than September.
G. nivalis is the common Snowdrop, but G. Elwesii is rather larger, and is favoured by many gardeners. The double form of the ordinary Snowdrop is also popular. Snowdrops can be planted as close as 2 in. apart and about 3-4 in. below the surface soil, that is, rather deeper in proportion to their size than most bulbs.
Galtonia (Cape Hyacinth)
G. candicans is also known as Hyacinthus candicans.
Bulbs are obtainable at cheap rates and make a very decorative appearance in the mixed border, where they should be grown in groups. They should be planted in March about 4 in. deep and 9 in. apart.
If they can be put into deep, rich sandy loam with leaf-mould and a good top dressing of manure each autumn or winter they will make a grand show.
G. candicans is the best-known species. It has long strap-shaped leaves and bears flowers on erect stems about 3 or 4 ft. high. Flowers somewhat resemble a greenish-white hyacinth.
These are such popular well-known bulbs that they need no description. They are the finest of all the spring-flowering bulbs for cultivation in the home, in special hyacinth glasses, or in bulbs of fibre, or in pots of ordinary soil. In the garden they are used freely for bedding schemes and for this purpose they are planted about 6-7 in. apart and 4-6 in. deep according to size. They flower more effectively planted in single colours than in a mixture, but it is not necessary, nor desirable, to obtain the largest size bulbs for bedding schemes. Bedding Hyacinths are obtainable in separate colours at reasonable rates, and make a satisfactory and uniform show in the open garden. They can be left in the garden without lifting after flowering, but as a rule they deteriorate in quality from year to year whether they remain in the soil or are lifted, dried and stored. A few varieties seem to flower year after year in succession better than others. One which had proved successful in this respect is “Gertrude,” a bright pink variety showy for indoor cultivation as well as for outdoor.
Useful varieties for the attention of the amateur gardener are:
CITY OF HAARLEM, pale yellow; large spike.
KING OF THE YELLOWS, extra fine.
LADY DERBY, delicate pink; splendid for early forcing.
ROSY GEM, the finest of the red Hyacinths. Single flowers with large waxy pink bells.
LA GRANDESSE, pure white; one of the best and largest, for exhibition.
INNOCENCE, pure white.
BISMARCK, bright porcelain-blue.
ENCHANTRESS, delicate porcelain-blue.
EXCELSA, one of the most beautiful of pale blue hyacinths.
LA VICTOIRE, the finest dark red hyacinth; bright orange-red; good for early forcing.
ROI DES BELGES, fiery scarlet.
IVANHOE, violet-blue, almost black; large bells.
KING OF THE BLUES, fine indigo-blue;
MAUVE QUEEN, purplish-mauve.
INDIGO, deep rich blue.
ROMAN HYACINTHS (white) and the MINIATURE HYACINTHS (in separate colours) should also be grown for early blooming.
South African bulbs, excellent for pot culture in cool greenhouses, and producing masses of flowers suitable for cutting. In favoured localities they can be grown outdoors in the open garden, but the soil must be warm and light, as cold, clayey soil is fatal. They are planted between November and January, about 3 in. deep, in beds of light loam, with a handful of coarse sand over and under each bulb. Protect them from cold winds by a mulch of dry litter which should be removed about March when the leaves are showing. There are several varieties, but all are about 1-2 ft. high. Colours vary from lilac, orange, yellow and red to one variety which has green flowers. This is grown more as a curiosity than for decoration.
The most common species in the garden are the L. Mstivum, the summer Snowfiake and L. verwum the spring Snow-flake. The spring flower is greenish-white, while the summer one is pure white. The bulbs can be increased by offsets.
To this genus belong a number of good garden hybrids raised by crossing Crocosmia aurea with Tritonia Pottsi. They are very showy in the mixed border and some modern varieties have flowers that are almost bright red instead of the old orange-yellow type. The roots are rather curious. They are corms which give rise to underground stems, on which more corms develop. Where increase of stock is desired, and in fact, in most cases, it is best to lift the plants about the middle of April, divide them, replant them, allowing more room. This not only increases stock but it also prevents overcrowding. The divisions should be transplanted to about 9-12 in. apart in good soil. If spring division is not practised, the corms can be lifted in autumn after the foliage has died down and replanted 9 in. apart. Of the modern hybrids some of the finest and showiest for the mixed border are:
Star of the East
His Majesty Muscari (Grape Hyacinth)
Dwarf bulbous plants, with spikes of tiny bell flowers, packed closely together. They like deep sandy loam with manure and leaf-mould, and are best planted in bold patches and left to grow on for several years in succession. They can be increased by offsets, or by seed, which takes three or four years to reach flowering conditions. The best known variety is “Heavenly Blue.”
Ornithogalum (Star of Bethlehem)
Useful for groups in the mixed border or for naturalizing. A few kinds are somewhat tender and need a little winter protection in the form of leaf litter. Ordinary garden soil is suitable for all the genus. The flowers are mostly white or greenish-white.
The best species of this genus for growing in the ordinary garden is the South African S. coccinea. This has fleshy root-stocks, not exactly bulbous, and at the end of the year, usually from September to December, scarlet flowers, each about I in. across, are held well above the sword-like leaves, somewhat after the fashion of the gladiolus flowers. Unfortunately Schizostylis can only be grown well in mild gardens, where the soil is warm and fairly light. If they are to be planted in gardens where the natural soil is heavy clay, they should be treated like, and given a special compost made of moist loam, peat leaf-mould and silver sand. A position under a south wall is ideal. Plants can also be grown very well in pots for greenhouse decoration. Increase in the same way as Montbretias, ie. by division.
Scilia (The Bluebell family)
These bulbs are excellent for naturalizing in grass or under woodland trees. They need to be planted in liberal quantities to get good effects, and it is better to make one large group than to dot the bulbs here and there all over the garden. They also grow well in pots, bowls of fibre or shallow saucers of pebbles and water. To grow them in pebbles and water they should be set so that the base of the bulb almost reaches the water, and kept in a cool room until the flowers begin to show colour. In soil or in fibre they are treated in exactly the same way as other indoor bulbs.
S. sibirica is the species used for indoor water culture in this way. S. campanulaia (hispanica) is a bluebell suitable for massing in the same way as our native Bluebell, but it is more striking and decorative. It is obtainable in white-flowered and pink-flowered varieties as well as in blue. A mixed collection of the bulbs naturalized under fruit trees is a charming feature in any orchard.
These are often classed as bulbs although the root-stock is similar to that of a leek. They are very suitable for a rockery or for a garden where there is a light sandy peaty soil. The small pale-blue flowers produced in summer are on stems from 6-12 in. high. Increase by division of the root-stocks in early spring. . Sparaxis
These like a well-drained sandy loam in warm sunny borders and should be planted in bold masses. They flower in spring and early summer, flowers being variously coloured white, purple, orange, red, etc., according to variety. They are scarcely hardy enough to grow in every situation, but where they can be grown with success they are well worth a position in the garden.
Tigridia (The Tiger Flower)
These are fairly hardy and in Southern gardens can be grown outdoors all the year round. Where there is any danger of frost entering the soil and damaging the roots it is better to lift them and store them in the same way as, that is, in boxes of sawdust or sand. They can be readily increased by offsets or by seeds sown in spring in heat. The best species for the open garden is Tigridia pavonia, 1-2 ft. high, with flowers scarlet and purple and yellow. Other varieties are listed in trade catalogues.
One of the parents of the Montbretia. Tritonias succeed well in rich, well-drained sandy soil. They are not perfectly hardy and should be grown beneath a south wall or in some similar sheltered position. They should not be allowed to become dry at the roots. Increase by separation of the corms or offsets.