Lilies in a greenhouse

Hitherto Lilies, apart from Amaryllids, have been left out of consideration, because the subject is too large to be dismissed with a mere paragraph. It is obvious, however, that they are almost the most important amongst flowering bulbs for the unheated greenhouse in late spring and summer, not only on account of their intrinsic beauty, but from their adaptability to varied circumstances. Certain kinds, like L. giganteum, and perhaps, on account of its overpowering scent except in the open air, L. auratum, are only suited for outdoor culture. Others are admirably adapted for planting out, where the structure is large and airy.

Probably no more lovely greenhouse picture could be devised than a well-planned Lily garden under glass, with, perhaps, by a counterfeit of nature, a streamlet running through it into a rocky pool, where groups of Lilies might grow amidst and out of fitting foliage, screened the while from all the dangers, alike of sun and storm.

But such arrangements, though far from impossible, are scarcely within the scope of all, and perhaps the topic most generally useful relates to Lilies suitable for pots.

Only a few, in proportion, out of the many beautiful Lilies now grown can be considered well adapted for this purpose. Some, like L. szovitzianum and L. excelsum (= L. testaceum), are too tall, others will not submit to being cramped at the roots, like some of the North American swamp Lilies, and some require treatment or soil difficult to give, but a few hints as to those which are most likely to succeed in a general way may not be out of place. Amongst early kinds-i.e., flowering in June and July-may be reckoned the different varieties of L. thunbergianum, also called L. elegans.

This is a dwarf-growing species, of which many varieties have been raised. They belong to the group with erect heads of cup-shaped flowers, of which the well-known Orange Lily (L. croceum) of our borders is a type, and are very handsome in their varied shades of colour from lemon and yellow to orange-red. Some are so dwarf in habit that they actually flower at little more than 6 in. high. Such an one is the buff-coloured variety, L. alutaceum, which is also one of the earliest. A nearly allied species, L. umbellatum ( = L. davuricum), fairly common in our gardens, is rather larger in all its parts, and the flowers are mostly of shades of dark orange-red. Both species are frequently grown in pots, but care should be taken to give shade in bright weather, when they are flowering under glass, otherwise they quickly lose their rich colouring and turn brown.

A pretty little early Lily, of a different type, is the slender-growing L. tenuifolium, a miniature turn-cap, with bright-red flowers, and quite at home in a pot. This is one of the Lilies most easily raised from seed, which is fortunate, as the bulbs are not very long-lived.
Amongst white Lilies, the best known, yet one of the fairest of them all, is the Madonna Lily (L. candidum), a wilful beauty, not always kind, for, strange to say, it will not everywhere succeed.

As we all know, this Lily is much in demand for church decoration, and huge cases containing thousands of bulbs are sent over from Holland every autumn for forcing purposes. These bulbs are, for the most part, finer than any I have ever seen of English growth. They are cultivated, presumably, in the same enriched soil of the sand dunes in which other Dutch bulbs thrive so marvellously, and are lifted at the exact moment when the leaves are almost dead and root action arrested.

A good many weeks must necessarily elapse before they are replanted, and the point I should like to make clear is, that in all the hundreds of these bulbs of which, as it so happens, I have had experience, never a trace of disease has appeared, and the flower spikes, unless they have had too much attention in the way of heat, have been as good as they can be.

Whether this is due to the dry nature of the sand in which they are grown or the drying-off process-which certainly does no harm-to which they are subjected on being lifted, I will not venture to assert, but those who want Madonna Lilies either for pots in a cold greenhouse or for church decoration in May cannot do better than to procure some of these splendid bulbs from Holland. They cannot be induced to flower so soon as Easter without forcing, but if obtained as early as possible in the season, given protection from frost in a cold frame during the severest weather, and brought into an unheated greenhouse with a south aspect in March, they ought to be ready for Whitsuno tide, or even earlier sometimes, according to the date upon which it falls. Five bulbs in a deep, broad pan 15 in. by 8 in. will make a good clump, and the noble spires prove very acceptable several weeks earlier than they can be looked for in the garden, whether for church or corridor, or even for grouping in the shady angle of a courtyard or veranda, with suitable background and undergrowth of greenery, where, as sometimes happens, garden-room is denied.

Of white Lilies for pots one of the earliest and best is L. longiflorum. The trumpet is not so long as in the variety known as L. Harrisi, which is imported in large numbers from Bermuda, but it is much more hardy and satisfactory to grow. It comes to us from Japan and is a well-known favourite. Amongst newer and less familiar species is L. Alexandre, also from Japan, and supposed to be a hybrid between L. auratum and L. speciosum, though this may be doubtful. The flowers, which are pure white, are less trumpet-shaped than L. longiflorum, but more so than in L. auratum, and the thick waxy petals last well, while the scent is less oppressive than in L. auratum. When better known and less costly this Lily is sure to become popular, as it succeeds admirably under pot culture and flowers at a height of about 18 in.

But many hues may be looked for amongst the Lilies, and another charming species, also well suited for pots, is the new L. rubellum, with clear pink- or rose-coloured flowers. It is too soon, perhaps, to speak positively of its good behaviour, but those who have had most experience have testified to its strong constitution and to the early flowering of established bulbs.

It is, of course, quite possible to grow in pots the lovely orange-yellow L. Henryi, discovered and sent home from China some years since by Dr. Henry. Its great height, however, points rather to its suitability for planting out, where its magnificent proportions can have full scope, but in whatever way it is grown it has proved itself to be one of the most valuable Lilies of recent introduction. At Kew in the open air it has reached a height of 8 ft., and a single stem has carried as many as thirty flowers.

I have grown two small North American Lilies sent across to me by the kindness of a friend, which are extremely pretty for the unheated greenhouse. One of these, L. Grayi, is nearly allied to L. canadense, and has the same kind of creeping bulbs. The flower is orange-red with reflexed spotted petals. The other, L. philadelphicum, is quite distinct, having open-cupped flowers of even more brilliant colouring.

They are both worth growing in this way by a Lily collector, though not very easy to keep, and both love a peat soil.
Of the later flowering Lilies L. tigrinum, though one of the oldest garden species, is still one of the most beautiful, but the variety called Superbum is the only one well adapted for pot culture. Its very distinct shade of deep apricot, however, makes this variety valuable for the purpose, as well as its intermediate season of flowering.

But our greatest standby for autumn is the Japanese L. speciosum, in its different varieties, flowering naturally as it does in August and September. This Lily, which used to be known as L. lancifolium, is not always recognised under the newer name, but it is too familiar to need description. The three forms are represented by L. speciosum roseum, L. speciosum rubrum, and L. Kraetzeri, which is the best of the white varieties, and may be distinguished by the pale green stripe down the centre of each petal. A deep red variety is known as Melpomene.

In growing these and other Lilies, it is well to know which species naturally throw out stem-roots and which do not, as it indicates a different system of potting. Of those which have been mentioned, L. AlexandrT, L. auratum, L. elegans, L. Henryi, L. longiflorum, L. speciosum, and L. tigrinum all have stem-roots, and should be potted low, leaving a space of 2 in. or 3 in. above the bulbs for a liberal top-dressing as soon as these stem-roots begin to push.

Without this, they will wither away for lack of nourishment, and the flowers will greatly suffer. On the contrary, L. candidum and L. Grayi root from the base only, and should be potted with the top of the bulbs almost on a level with the soil, only taking care to leave a sufficient rim for proper watering-a necessity often overlooked when potting is done by an inexperienced hand. I have found the long pots recommended before for AlstrOmeria extremely useful for Lily culture, especially for the stem-rooting kinds. In buying new bulbs no time should be lost in potting them as soon as received.

With home-grown bulbs, the moment to turn them out of their pots arrives when the leaves and stems have become quite yellow-a week too soon is better than a week too late-as root action is suspended for an incredibly short time. My practice has always been to separate the larger from the smaller bulbs, re-potting all immediately, and have found it answer much better than keeping them above ground, even for two or three weeks, in spite of the fact that the L. candidum bulbs sent over from Holland do not seem to suffer.

Two-thirds of turfy loam to one of leaf-mould, some well-decayed manure from a spent hot-bed, two or three double handfuls of road-grit or coarse sharp sand, and a sprinkling of soot, well mixed together, make an excellent compost which suits most Lilies, but there are a few, like L. Grayi and L. philadelphicum, which prefer peat. The pots must be well drained, and a handful of old hot-bed refuse well rammed down above the crocks is desirable. After potting a good watering should be given, and then a thick layer of cocoanut-fibre refuse will keep the Lily bulbs safe until they begin to push.

The young growths must be protected from frost in the same way as other bulbs, but the more hardily Lilies can be grown, and the more they are in the open air (always, of course, according to the weather) the better. It is a melancholy sight to see such fine Lilies as L. speciosum, for example, spoilt by overmuch coddling, but they should be brought under glass as soon as the flower-buds are formed, and watch kept lest these should be crippled by green fly. They will require an abundance of water during the growing season, but after flowering this must be gradually withheld, as with other plants of the like nature, and the pots should stand in some sheltered place out of doors for the bulbs to ripen.

It is easy enough to flower Lilies well for one season, for they are as a general rule in good condition when bought from trustworthy dealers, but the test of a good Lily-grower is to keep the bulbs year after year, and probably most of us have a record of as many failures as successes.

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