A favorite flower of all lands is the Lily, and the variety we force so extensively, nowadays, is quite the peer of any, with its large, trumpet-shaped blossoms of purest waxen white and most exquisite fragrance. If I could have but two bulbs for winter use these two would be the Narcissus and the Lily. If I had to restrict my choice to one, I presume the Lily would be chosen; but I would have both, if possible. Lilium candidum is used to a considerable extent for forcing by the florists, also L. longiflorum, but for amateur culture neither of these is as desirable as L. Harrisii, which is the catalogue name of the variety usually known as the Easter Lily. This variety is almost sure to bloom if you procure good, strong bulbs and give them the right kind of treatment.
In potting Tulips, put the bulbs about an inch below the soil.
Treat the Narcissus in the same manner.
Hyacinths do best if only about half their depth in soil. Simply press them down into it.
I would advise putting four, five, or six bulbs of Tulip, Hyacinth and Narcissus into each pot, instead of potting them singly. A much finer effect is secured by massing them, than by giving each bulb a pot of its own. Four bulbs can be grown to entire satisfaction in a six-inch pot. Six or more in seven and eight-inch pots. It does not matter in the least if the bulbs touch each otheV.
Lilies, because of a'somewhat peculiar habit of growth, demand a treatment quite different from either of the bulbs of which J have made mention above. It is a fact not generally understood by amateur gardeners, that they have two distinct sets of roots. One set is thrown out from the base of the bulb, the other from the stalk above the bulb. In order to give the upper set a chance to develop, it becomes necessary to plant the bulb low in the pot. Then, as the stalk shoots up, we can fill in about it with soil, into which the roots it sends out can penetrate, and find the support they need. Therefore, in potting Lilies put only three or four inches of soil into the pot at first. Settle the bulbs into it firmly. Then, after watering, put the plants into cold storage, to form roots, along with your other bulbs, and add no more soil until top-growth begins. Then, from time to time, as the stalk elongates, add soil until the pot is full.
I always put three or four bulbs of the Lily into each pot, using, generally, eight and nine-inch pots. These will easily accommodate the number of bulbs mentioned, if of ordinary size. Extra large bulbs will, of course,require larger pots, or fewer bulbs to a pot. It does not matter if the bulbs crowd each other.
After potting your bulbs, water them well.
Then set them away in a place that is cool, and dark, and leave them there until they have formed roots.
The advice in the above paragraph is of great importance. You can not afford to ignore it. Pot a bulb, and place it at once in the window, and root and top-growth will begin at the same time. Light and heat excite the latter prematurely. As there are, as yet, no roots to feed and support the top, the development of it will be weak, and attempts at flowering will generally prove abortive. Nature's method is always to develop roots first. These completed, top-growth sets in, and is successfully carried forward, because there is something to support it. We must aim to do, in this case, as nearly as possible what Nature does, and the first thing of all to do is to encourage the production of roots. This is why we place our potted bulbs in cold storage immediately after potting them. Away from light and heat, they do precisely what the bulbs we plant in the garden do in fall-form roots, without attempting any growth of top, at the time. After the period of root-formation is over, they will, under the influence of light and warmth, turn their attention to the second stage of their existence-the production of flowers.
Most bulbs will form roots in about six weeks. Be sure they have done so before you bring any of them to the windows. If the place in which they are stored has a temperature but little above the frost-mark-and such a place is better for them than a warmer one- top-growth will be slow in setting in, and they can be safely left there for some time after the completion of root-growth. Florists keep their potted bulbs in a low temperature to hold them back for Easter, and quickly force them into bloom with heat. Of course the amateur florist can not manage these things as the professional, with all the facilities of the trade at his command, can, but he can work along the same line, and aim to do what the other does. Quite often he will be delightfully surprised at his own success. It is well worth the amateur's while to try his best to do the things the professional does.