Outdoor Cultivation Of Bulbs


The lovely Acidanthera bicolor murielae comes from Ethiopia and grows 3 ft. high. On each stem, during September and October, are borne five to six fragrant white flowers each marked with a maroon blotch at the centre. Of special interest to the flower arranger is that these flowers will last a long time if picked in bud.

The corms should be planted in April and May 3 in. deep and 6-in. Apart in light, well-drained soil and in a sunny position which is sheltered from the wind. An ideal place is against a warm south or south west-facing wall where it should be possible to leave the corms in the ground over winter if they are protected by a covering of straw or bracken.

Acidantheras can be increased by offsets or by seed sown under glass in the spring.


Agapanthus orientalis (syn. A. umbellatus) is the African lily or lily of the Nile. It has large strap-shaped leaves and handsome funnel-shaped summer flowers which in the species are blue but there is also a fine white form and one of a rich double blue. All grow 2 to 3 ft. tall.


The creeping rootstock should be planted in March so that the crown is just below the surface in a sandy soil and a warm, sunny position. As it is inclined to be half hardy, it makes an excellent subject for flowering in pots which can be taken into the greenhouse or conservatory during the winter months. A single rhizome will give a good display in a 9 or 10-in. pot. A hardier strain, the Head-bourne Hybrids, has now been developed, however, with colours ranging from pale to deep violet blue. These can be left in situ during the winter with straw or bracken protection.

African lilies can be increased by offsets, division or seed though from seed they may take five to six years to flower.


This is the family to which the onion belongs but it has many lovely ornamental relations which only give the characteristic onion smell if their leaves are bruised. Heights range from a few inches to several feet and the colour range is from pure white through yellow and pink to deep purple. All produce ball-shaped flower heads freely from May to July, some being solid and others tasselled. They should be planted in a sunny, open position in the autumn and covered with two to three times their own depth of soil. The smaller-growing species can be planted 2 to 3 in. apart, the larger ones 8 to 9 in. apart. Increase by division of the bulb clusters in autumn or by seed sown in spring in a cool greenhouse or frame.

Allium afiatunense has the descriptive common name of the powder puff. It has dense rounded heads of lilac-purple flowers on 2 to 3-ft. Stems. The butterflies’ haven, A. albopilosum, has heads of lilac starry flowers which can be as much as 10 to 12 in. across on 2-ft. Stems. The globular heads of the 2-ft. A. caeruleum are cornflower blue.

A. moly is sometimes known as the golden garlic. It has bluish-green leaves and umbels of yellow flowers on 10 to 12-in. Stems. Sweetly scented white flowers are the glory of the 15-in. A. neapolitanum. And the last which I have room for here is A. ostrowskianum, at 6 in. ideal for the rock garden, which it graces with its carmine-pink flowers.


The Peruvian lilies are elegant, tuberous rooted perennials and they make excellent cut flowers. The umbels of richly coloured, funnel-shaped flowers are in evidence from June onwards on 1 to 4-ft. Leafy stems. They should be planted in April in a well-drained sheltered position and established plants will benefit from an annual mulch of well-decayed manure in the spring. This will also afford some protection from frosts.

I would strongly recommend the hybrids of Alstroemeria ligtu which can be had in beautiful shades of pink, orange, yellow and carmine. There is also A. aurantiaca lutea which has yellow flowers spotted carmine; A. pelegrina which is clear pink, and A. haemantha which is blood red.


If you plant the belladonna lily, Amaryllis belladonna, under a south wall you will be richly rewarded during the late summer and early autumn with fragrant, rosy-red, trumpet flowers of which up to ten can be carried on the top of each 18-in. Stem. An August planting of bulbs 4 in. deep and 12 in. apart will flower within a few weeks. The dull green, strap-shaped leaves are produced after the flowers in the spring. Leave undisturbed but cover in severe winters with bracken or straw. Increase by offsets or by seed sown in heat in spring. This, however, is a very slow process as it can take seven years before flowers appear.


As its common name implies, the wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa, is ideal for naturalizing and as ground cover beneath taller subjects in the mixed border which will give it some shade. The spring flowers of the species are white with pink tips on 6-in, stems and there are several good varieties in the white to lavender-blue colour range. Plant 2 in. deep in a leafy or peaty soil in September or October.

A. coronaria is the poppy anemone and two excellent strains — the St Brigid and the de Caen — have been bred from it. These have flowers of many colours and are, of course, well known as commercial cut flowers. The stems are up to 1 ft. high. Plant the tubers 2 to 3 in. deep and 6 in. apart in November for spring flowering, in April or May for July flowering, and in June for September flowering.

There are numerous varieties of A. blanda with flowers from white to blue. They prefer a sunny and sheltered site


Bulbocodium vernum is especially suited to the rock garden for the crocus-like purple blooms appear on short stems during March and April. Plant in September 3 in. deep and 4 to 6 in. apart in a warm, sheltered place and well-drained soil. It can be left undisturbed for many years.


The butterfly tulips or mariposa lilies are not easy to grow and consequently they are not as widely known as their beauty suggests that they should be. However, the gardener with a warm, well-drained soil would do well to try them for they are like very delicately formed tulips on slender 6 to 24-in, stems, the height depending on the species grown.

Plant in October or November in a warm, sunny position and a light, sandy soil to which leafmould or peat has been added for moisture retention during the summer If protected with straw or bracken during the winter, or in severe weather with frame lights or cloches, they can be left undisturbed for several years.

Calochortus venustus is perhaps the most readily available with white, cream or yellow flowers with a blotch of dark red on each petal. It flowers in June and July and is 2 ft. tall. C. splendens has lilac flowers on 1-ft. Stems in May and June.

With good well-drained soil. A. fulgens has gay scarlet flowers in May and A. apennina is a charming plant for naturalizing in grass. It flowers in March.

All are increased by seed or dividing the tubers.


The beautiful forms of Babiana stricta can be grown out of doors in favoured areas given a light sandy soil and a well-drained sunny border. They will, however, need the winter protection of a covering of straw or bracken if the bulbs are not lifted and stored. The flowers appear in May and June and among the lovely colours available are blue, cream, rose pink and crimson. Plant 4 in. deep and 2 in. apart in March or April and increase from seed or offsets.


The tuberous-rooted begonias make splendid summer-bedding plants in their vivid colour range of red and pink through orange and yellow to white. The tubers should be started into growth in February, March or April in a greenhouse with a minimum temperature of 13°C. (55°F.). Plant them in boxes of moist peat or a moist peat and sand mixture and when

growth begins pot into 5-in, pots filled with John Innes Potting Compost No. 2. Harden off before planting out. Lift and store the tubers in October. Increase from seed sown in January or February in a temperature of 18°C. (65°F.) or more.


The genus now includes those flowers originally listed under milla and triteleia. As if to emphasize the surprising number of bulbous subjects which do flower during the summer and autumn months, these are in’ full bloom during June and July. They are ideal for the front of the border or rock garden and should be planted in a well-drained soil and a sunny position for the best display.

Californian fire cracker is the very vivid common name of Brodiaea coccinea (syn. B. ida-maia) which has lovely green-tipped, crimson flowers on 15-in. Stems. The 12-in. B. congesta has lilac-blue flowers but the best of all is the free-flowering, fragrant B. unifiora ( Milla un(flora) with pale lavender long-lasting flowers which have a thin violet stripe running down the centre of each petal. It grows to 6 in. with lots of grassy foliage.


I like to see the amenable Camassia esculenta flowering in the summer border. It has spikes of star-shaped flowers which in variety have a colour range from white to deep blue. This species which grows to 2 ft. and flowers in June and July can also be naturalized in light woodland. There is also C. cusickii which is 3 ft. and C. scilloides (syn. C. fraseri) which is half that height. Both have pale blue flowers.

Plant camassias in the autumn 4 to 5 in. deep and the same distance apart in sun or light shade and leave undisturbed for a number of years. Increase by seed or by division when the bulbs are lifted which some gardeners advocate should be every four years to keep the bulbs in a healthy condition.


The glory of the snow is native to the mountainous regions of Asia Minor and it is a delightful subject for the rock garden or window box. It should be planted in autumn 3 in. deep and 1 in. apart to flower from early March onwards. There are several good species. Chionodoxa luciliae is blue with a white centre; C. sardensis is a striking deep blue, and C. gigantea has large clear blue flowers with white centres although its variety alba is all white. They grow 6 to 7 in. tall and need plenty of sun and good drainage. Propagation is by offsets or seeds.


There is a point of confusion to be cleared up here. Colchicums are often called autumn crocuses but this is misleading as they are totally unrelated to the true crocus species which flower in autumn. They are much better called by one of their other two common names which are meadow saffron and naked ladies. The name naked ladies arose because there is no foliage to be seen during the flowering season. The broad, lush leaves only appear after flowering is over in the spring.

Colchicums will grow in sun or semi-shade and like most bulbous plants prefer a light, well-drained soil. They should be planted 3 in. deep and 6 in. apart in July and August and can be increased by division of the clumps at this time or by seeds sown in a cold frame in late summer

The crocus-like blooms are to be found in white and every shade of pink, mauve and purple and are 6 to 8 in. high. Care must be taken in placing them in a planting scheme, however, as the spring foliage, often 15 to 18 in. high, can smother neighbouring plants. They are perhaps better naturalized though even here caution must be practised as the foliage is poisonous and they must not therefore be planted where there are grazing animals.

Colchicum speciosum comes into flower in September but C. autumnale and its varieties flower a little earlier. There is also now a wide range of colchicum hybrids which flower from September to November and these are listed in catalogues under named varieties.


The blue spiderwort is easy to grow in a

warm sunny position. The best species is

Commelina tuberosa which has lovely

gentian-blue flowers on 15-in, stems in the summer and long lance-shaped leaves. It should be planted in the spring.


The lily-of-the-valley is not a true bulbous plant but it is usually included as such in any comprehensive list such as this. It likes a soil to which peat, leafmould or old manure has been added and a shady position. The crowns should be planted 3 to 4 in. apart and they can be left undisturbed for many years for they only need lifting when they have become overcrowded. An annual topdressing of compost or decayed manure applied when the foliage has died down will ensure the continued production of large flowers in May. Remember when picking the flowers to leave as many leaves as possible to manufacture the food which will be stored for next year.


The beautiful South African crinums are

superb plants for those sunny, sheltered

sites which are backed by a south-facing wall. They like a rich, loamy, sandy soil containing leafmould or peat or they can be grown in tubs and other ornamental containers. Plant in March so that the tips of the bulbs are just below the surface of the soil and if grown in the border protect in winter with straw or bracken. Propagation is by seed sown in spring in a warm greenhouse or by offsets.

Crinums have ornamental, evergreen, strap-shaped leaves and umbels of handsome funnel-shaped flowers on sturdy stems from July to September. From the large bulbs of Crinum macowanii develop 2-ft. Stems crowned by fragrant white and purple flowers. The flowers of C. moorei are pink and those of C. powellii, the most widely grown species, are white veined red with white stamens.


Crocosmia masonorum is a plant which teeters on the edge of hardiness and it, too, needs a warm, sunny border to be a success in our gardens with a light, sandy soil. The flowers, borne in arching sprays on 2i-ft. Stems, are an eye-catching orange-red shade and appear in August and September. The corms should be planted 6 in. deep in spring and lifted and stored at the end of the season if there is any danger of them being damaged by frost. In warmer gardens it may be sufficient to protect with bracken or straw for the winter. Increase by offsets or by seed.

The name Croco’smiacrocosmiifloranow covers the garden varieties of the montbretia and recently some very reliable hybrids have been introduced. Again they need a well-drained soil, a sunny position and winter protection. I would recommend planting them against a light-coloured wall to show off their bright yellow, orange or crimson flowers. Plant the corms 3 in. deep in March or April and 6 in. apart. Increase by division in March and April.


A succession of crocus species and varieties can be planted in the garden to give a wealth of beautiful jewel colours from September to April with few breaks. They are perhaps at their best when naturalized in grass but they also look delightful when planted in borders, in the rock garden or as an edging to paths and borders. They prefer a well-drained soil and to be left undisturbed for several years.

The winter and spring-flowering kinds should be planted in September and October and the autumn-flowering ones in July. The planting depth of them all is 3 in. with 2 to 3 in. between them and propagation is by offsets or seeds.

The list of good species and varieties is almost endless and reference to any good bulb catalogue will provide a plethora to choose from. Here is just a selection starting in the spring with Crocus imperati, scented violet flowers; C. sieberi, lavender blue; the varieties of C. biflorus, with blue or purple feathering on a white or cream ground; C. ancyrensis, orange yellow, and varieties of C. chrysanthus. The year continues with the cloth of gold crocus, C. susianus, and C. tomasinianus, silver lavender.

Then there are the large-flowered Dutch crocuses which are so widely planted in parks and gardens. For a really bright display these can be planted in a mixture of named varieties.

For autumn flowering there is C. zonatus with large but dainty pinkish-mauve flowers with a gold base and orange-gold anthers. C. speciosus has bright blue flowers with violet veinings and orange stigmas and there is a pure white variety albus with red stigmas. C. pulchellus has sky-blue flowers with white anthers.


Curtonus paniculatus was originally known as Antholyza paniculata. It flowers in late summer with handsome orange-red, tubular flowers on branched, arching stems to

4 ft. It likes a light, well-drained soil and sunny position preferably against a warm wall. Give a winter protection of straw or bracken. March or April is the time to plant the corms 4 in. deep and 6 to 8 in. apart. Increase by offsets or by seeds sown in a cool greenhouse.


The gardener with a cool, shady corner to fill can do no better than plant some of these delightful little flowers. They should be planted during August and September in a peaty soil 1-in. Deep and 3 in. apart. They can then be left undisturbed for many years. Propagation is by seed sown in spring in a cool greenhouse or frame or by division of the old clumps in August or September.

Species can be found to flower from August to the following May and among my favourites is Cyclamen coum with dainty carmine blooms in February and March. C. neapolitanum, with rosy-pink flowers in August and September, C. europaeum, with carmine flowers in autumn, and C. repandum, with crimson flowers in spring, are species with beautifully marbled foliage. These make an extremely attractive ground cover which is with us for most of the year.


Here we are concerned with the growing of dahlias from tubers. These tubers are not fully hardy and so must be lifted carefully and stored each winter in a dry, airy, frostproof place. In late April and early May they should be planted out in a good, well-drained soil and sunny position. Insert stakes before planting and use a trowel or spade, depending on the size of the tubers, to make the hole. The tubers should be firmly covered with 3 to 4 in. of soil. Taller-growing varieties should be planted at least 3 ft. apart and the smaller bedding dahlias 18 in. apart.

As the shoots start to develop thin these to leave about three strong shoots to each plant. When these reach about 8 to 9 in. in height, it is a good idea to pinch out the main growing points. This will encourage the side shoots to grow and will result in a bushy plant with a larger number of flowers. Only the larger-flowered kinds and those grown for exhibition need disbudding to leave one bud at the apex of the shoot.

Dahlias need plenty of water and to conserve soil moisture the area around the plants can be mulched with a layer of peat, leafmould, garden compost or well-rotted manure. Feed regularly with a general fertilizer scraping away the mulch if you have applied one. As the taller-growing varieties develop they will require tying loosely to the stakes.

As the season reaches its climax, it may be necessary to thin out some of the surplus young shoots higher up the plant, otherwise it becomes a mass of foliage with poor quality flowers. This is done by snapping off all the side shoots for about 11 to 2 ft. from the tip of each stem.

After flowering and before any severe frosty weather cut down the plants to within 9 to 12 in. of the ground and label each with the name of its variety. Lift the tubers and store.

Dahlias are divided into groups according to the shape and formation of their flowers. Grow the small and medium-flowered varieties for garden display reserving the large-flowered types for exhibition work. Dahlias are splendid mixed border subjects, they look striking when grown in a bed on their own and the dwarf varieties are among my favourite bedding plants. The Cactus and Semi-cactus dahlias have spiky flowers and the flatter-petalled types are called Decoratives. Dahlias with globular flowers less than 2 in. in diameter are called Pompons

and above this size are called Ball dahlias. The dwarf dahlias, up to 2 ft. in height, are the bedding dahlias. A good catalogue will offer you a wide choice of dahlias in a wide and beautiful colour range.


Like so many other fine bulbous plants Dierama pulcherrimum comes from South Africa and as its native habitat suggests it needs a sunny, sheltered position and a well-drained but moist soil. The corms should be planted 3 to 4 in. deep and 3 in. apart in the autumn for flowering in July and August. The bell-like flowers of white or purple hang from long, arched stems and the leaves are grass like. Protect in winter and increase by seed sown in spring in a cool greenhouse or frame, or by division of the clusters of corms in March.


The winter aconites are very useful plants for they thrive in moist, shady conditions where little else will grow. They should be planted 2 in. deep and 2 in. apart in September or October and left undisturbed for as long as possible. They will provide excellent ground cover.

The most widely grown species is Eranthis hyemalis which flowers from January to March with a carpet of butter cup yellow against attractive, much divided leaves. E. tubergeniana has handsome deep yellow scented flowers, measuring 2 in. across, and its variety Guinea Gold which is somewhat later flowering has deep yellow fragrant flowers and bronzy foliage.

Increase by division of the tubers in September or October.


These are the foxtail lilies, tall, noble plants for the back of the border. They have strap-like leaves and long tail-like flower spikes which will need protection from the wind. Give them a deeply worked rich soil and plant the crowns from October to December. They may need some winter protection but can be left for three or four years before lifting and dividing.

The golden-yellow flowers of Eremurus bungei appear in July and are 5 to 6 ft. high. E. himalaicus is taller at 8 ft., flowering in May and June with white flowers which have orange anthers. The 10-ft. E. robust us elwesianus produces spikes of large delicate pink flowers in June.


The violets revel in a semi-shady place and moist but well-drained soil. Various forms of the dog’s tooth violet, Erythronium dens-canis, are available in white, purple, pink and mauve and in heights from 6 to 9 in. The nodding flowers appear in March and April. Slightly later flowering is the handsome E. revolutum with delightfully mottled leaves. This species has rose-pink flowers and there is a white variety, White Beauty, with brown markings at the base of the petals. E. tuolumnense is another fine species, with golden-yellow flowers and pale green leaves.

Plant in August or September, 2 to 3 in. deep and the same distance apart, in a soil which contains plenty of humus material. Increase by offsets removed in early autumn.


It is strange that the two most commonly grown members of this genus should be so very different from one another though they share the same month of flowering, April.

Fritillaria meleagris is the snake’s head fritillary and it grows about 1 ft. high. The beautiful markings on the bell-shaped flowers are among the most unusual to be found for they are chequered in various shades of purple. There are fine named varieties available like the white Aphrodite, the purple Charon, and Saturnus, a pretty pinkish-purple shade. The snake’s head fritillary is a native of Britain and may be found growing wild in some districts. It likes a moist but well-drained soil and looks well in borders or naturalized in grass. The bulbs should be planted in September, 4 in. deep and 6 in. apart, and left undisturbed for as long as possible. Increase by offsets taken at the time of replanting.

Fritillaria imperialis, the crown imperial, is an impressive plant with a close-packed tuft of leaves encircling the tops of the 3 to 4-ft. Stems above the nodding yellow, red or orange-red, bell-shaped flowers. It prefers a fairly rich soil which is on the heavy side and is best suited to a partly shaded border or a woodland setting. Plant as for meleagris, 6 in. deep and 12 in. apart.


Galanthus nivalis is the very popular common snowdrop which, at 6 in. tall, flowers in January and February. It has two outstanding varieties in S. Amott, which has beautifully formed flowers, and atkinsii. Other species — byzantinus, elwesh and plicatus, all 9 to 12 in. tall — extend the flowering season. Each has the well-known white flowers with green markings.

Grow in beds or borders, rock gardens, banks or in grass, in sun or light shade, and plant the bulbs 3 in. deep and. 3 in. apart. Increase by offsets or by dividing clumps of bulbs after flowering in spring when this becomes necessary.


The white-flowered Galtonia candicans is an attractive plant with its spikes of bell-shaped, sweet-scented flowers on 4-ft. Stems. It makes the best display when planted in groups in a mixed sunny border when it will bring a welcome touch of white to the August and September scene. It can be left undistur*d for several years.

Plant the bulbs 6 in. deep and 1 ft. apart on fairly rich soil at any time between autumn and March when conditions are suitable. Increase by offsets at the time of planting.


These are lovely flowers which are available in many beautiful colours. The types grown are the large-flowered Grandiflorus, the Butterfly, Miniature and Primulinus. As new varieties are introduced each year I would advise you to consult the

catalogues of gladiolus specialists for a list of varieties. The Grandiflorus varieties flower from July to September and grow to 4 ft. tall. The Butterfly gladioli flower at the same time and reach a similar height but the flowers are smaller and they have handsome throat markings and blotches. Miniature gladioli are, of course, shorter at 2 to 2 ½ ft. tall and the flowers often have crinkled edges to their petals whereas the Primulinus type are 2 to 4 ft. tall with more or less hooded flowers set more widely in a slender spike.

The mixed or cut-flower border is the place for gladioli and they like a site which receives plenty of sunshine and yet is sheltered from strong winds, and well-drained and well-prepared soil.

Prepare the soil as far in advance of the planting date as possible and plant in succession from March to May to extend the flowering time. The corms should be inserted 4 in. deep and 5 to 6 in. apart. A little sand or old ashes placed above and below the corms will keep them from rotting. They appreciate a feed in June with a good compound fertilizer and the taller varieties will need staking.

Gladioli are, unfortunately, only half hardy and so after they have flowered and the foliage has died down the corms should be carefully lifted and stored in a dry frostproof place until the following spring. Increase by seed or from the cormlets which form round the base of the corm each season.


Hyacinths are excellent for spring bedding, although their cost is becoming increasingly prohibitive, and also for planting in ornamental containers and wherever they are grown they will delight with their beautiful fragrance. They like a well-drained rich soil in an open, sunny position and it pays to feed them with bonemeal after planting 3 to 4 in. deep and 8 in. apart in September, October or November, placing a little sand around the bulbs.

The faded flowers should be removed before the seecipods form. The leaves are then allowed to wither naturally when the bulbs are lifted, dried and stored in a dry, airy place until the following autumn. They can be left in the ground from season to season but are not usually grown in borders which allow this treatment.

Varieties in a wide colour range can be found in any good catalogue and if their price stops you from buying many bulbs why not try planting them with other spring-bedding plants like aubrietas, forget-me-nots and pansies.


The bulbous irises include many superb garden plants and apart from the well-known English, Dutch and Spanish varieties, there are also some very attractive dwarf species. Iris reticulata is especially welcome in the mixed border or rock garden because it flowers in January and February. The scented flowers are deep purple each with a prominent yellow blotch on 9-in. Stems. There are a number of excellent forms including Cantab, blue and yellow; Royal Blue, bluish purple and yellow, and Harmony rich blue and yellow. Iris danfordiae resembles reticulata in shape but it is yellow and flowers on 3-in. Stems in February. Iris histrioides also flowers at the same time and is a rich blue shade with white and gold markings. The form named major is particularly fine.

All like a gritty well-drained soil and a warm, sunny position sheltered from strong winds. Plant 3 to 4 in. deep and the same distance apart in August and September and the bulbs can then be left for several years before they will need to be lifted and divided.

There are many varieties available of the Dutch, Spanish and English irises in a good colour range from blue and mauve to yellow and white. All grow from to 2 ft. tall and make popular cut flowers. The Dutch are the first to come into flower in May, followed by the Spanish and then the English in late June and July. Plant them 3 in. deep and 6 in. apart in September or October in any reasonable, well-drained soil to which a dressing of bonemeal has been added. English irises will do better in a moister soil than either the Dutch or Spanish types.


The African corn lilies will grace a warm, sunny border during May and June with their pretty, star-shaped flowers borne in long graceful racemes. They come in a wide range of colours often with a contrasting centre — orange, red, violet and white — either as named varieties or in mixture and grow 1 to l1 ft. tall.

Plant the corms in September or October 4 in. deep and 2 in. apart in a well-drained, warm and sandy soil. The emerging shoots may need protection with straw or bracken in a cold spring. It is important that the corms are well ripened after flowering and it may be necessary to lift them annually after the narrow, grassy leaves have died down.


A warm, sheltered position under a south-facing wall, with a light sandy soil, is also the best place for the May-flowering ixiolirions. The attractive, rather trumpetlike flowers in shades of blue, purple and white are set off against narrow greyish-green leaves. They grow 1 to 14 ft. high and make very good cut flowers. Ixiolirion montanum is the species and several varieties of it are freely available and are listed in catalogues.

Plant the bulbs in October 4 in. deep and 4 in. apart and treat as for ixias. Increase by offsets.


These are the snowflakes, charming flowers which resemble outsize snowdrops. Leucofum aestivum is the summer snowflake. It grows to 14 ft. tall and has white, green-tipped flowers in April and May. The spring snowflake, L. vernum, is smaller, some 6 in. high and in favoured districts it may start to flower at the end of January, carrying on through February and March. It is especially good for naturalizing in grass. Both species like to grow in shade and should be left undisturbed for periods of up to five years or so. Plant the bulbs 3m, deep and 4 in. apart in September or October in a moist but well-drained soil.

The autumn-flowering species needs a warm position in full sun. The white, pink-tinged flowers are carried on 6 to 8-in. Stems in September. Plant 3 in. deep and 3 in. apart in April. All three species can be propagated by offsets.


There are two important points to remember when making a selection of lilies to grow in the garden. Some are lime haters and some are stem rooting i.e. they form roots on the lower part of the stem as well as basally from the bulb. This means that they have to be planted deeper — 8 to 9 in. as opposed to 5 or 6 in. for the others. To add confusion, however, there are exceptions to this rule notably Lilium candidum and L. giganteum ( Cardiocrinum giganteum), both non stem rooters, which are covered with only in. of soil.

Lilies like a well-prepared, well-drained soil and a cool root run. They should therefore be planted with rather openhabited, low-growing shrubs and herbaceous plants in a mixed border as these will shade the lilies’ roots. Plant during October and November and bed on sand as the bulbs have a tendency to rot. Once planted leave lilies undisturbed for as long as possible and mulch each spring with peat or leafmould. When deterioration is noticeable divide the clumps of bulbs and replant in autumn. Stake as necessary.

Lilies can be propagated vegetatively from an original single bulb, by means of scales, division or bulbils, or from seed.

Here is a brief description of some of the best garden lilies in alphabetical order starting with the golden-rayed lily of Japan, Lilium auratum. It has many highly scented white flowers with crimson spots, each petal marked with a golden ray in August and September. It is stem rooting and grows 5 to 7 ft. tall. L. candidum is the Madonna lily with pure white, fragrant flowers on 6-ft. Stems in July. Unlike many lilies, this one actually likes a limy soil. L. davidii, the handsome Chinese lily, has red Turk’s-cap flowers covered with black spots. It has two fine varieties, Maxwill, a bright orange-red colour and about a foot taller than the type at 6 ft., and willmottiae, a very impressive deep orange. These are stem rooting and lime tolerant.

For flowering in August and September, as well as in sun or shade, the lime-tolerant stem-rooting L. henryi is excellent with orange-yellow flowers marked with dark spots on 6 to 7-ft. Stems. L. speciosum ( lancifolium) thrives in sun or partial shade and flowers in August or September on 3 to 5-ft. Stems. It is stem rooting and the variety roseum is white, spotted pink; rubrum is white spotted red, and album is pure white. L. longiflorum has lovely, trumpet-shaped, waxy, white flowers on 3-ft. Stems in June and July.

L. martagon album is the white variety of the Turk’s-cap lily. It does not mind limy soil and will grow 3 to 5 ft. high, flowering in June and July. L. pardalinum, the panther lily, has orange and crimson Turk’s-cap flowers, heavily marked with crimson-brown spots. These are borne in July on 5 to 6-ft. Stems. They like a damp soil and do not object to lime. L. regale has handsome trumpet flowers which are suffused with pinkish purple and maroon shades on the outside and white within, flushed yellow in the throat. It grows to 6 ft. tall, is stem rooting and lime tolerant. L. tigrinum splendens is a particularly fine variety of the tiger lily with rich salmon-orange flowers in August. It is a stem rooter which does not like alkaline soils and it will grow 4 to 6ft. High.

Apart from the species there are many excellent hybrid strains including the Mid-century Hybrids which grow 21 to 4 ft. tall in a lime-free soil and flower in June and July with an excellent colour range. The African Queen strain of trumpet lilies has large flowers of apricot yellow suffused with reddish bronze. They are 5 ft. tall and flower in late June and July.

The Golden Clarion strain has trumpet flowers in varying shades of yellow, gold and orange, often marked with deep red. They flower in July on 31 to 4-ft. Stems.

The strain of trumpet lilies called Golden Splendour includes only golden-coloured lilies. The Bellingham Hybrids have Turk’s-cap flowers on 7-ft. Stems. They are usually orange in colour marked with dark spots.


The grape hyacinths are delightful subjects for borders, growing around trees or shrubs on rock gardens, and naturalizing in grass. The best-known species is Muscari armeniacum, especially the variety Heavenly Blue with spikes of rich blue flowers. Another good variety is Cantab with paler, Cambridge-blue flowers. All are around 8 in. tall. Two varieties of M. botryoides look charming when grown together. These are the dark blue caeruleum and the white album. Both flower in April at 6 in. tall.

Slightly earlier there is the rather unusual M. tubergenianum which has flowers in two shades of blue on each spike — pale blue at the top, dark blue lower down. The violet-coloured flowers of the plume or feather hyacinth, M. comosum monstrosum (comosum plumosum), are looser than those of the other muscari and they give a feathery appearance. It looks very effective on a sunny ledge in the rock garden or on the top of a dry wall.

Plant muscari in ordinary soil and a sunny position 3 in. deep and 4 in. apart in September and October. Most varieties increase rapidly and will naturalize themselves.


The daffodils and narcissi must be the most popular of the flowering bulbs and this large genus offers such a bewildering choice that it has been classified by international agreement into eleven divisions based on the formation and colour of the flowers. I will attempt to give a brief description of each of these sections but because of lack of space will not recommend any varieties. These are constantly changing and it would be better to consult a good catalogue. In catalogues you may find reference to: a mother bulb, one with as many as four growths which will each produce flowering shoots, a double nose bulb, one with at least two ‘noses’ which will give a minimum of two flowers; a single nose bulb, one which will produce one or two flowers.

Division I is devoted to the Trumpet daffodils — those in which the cup is longer than, or as long as, the backing perianth segments (petals).

Division II, the Large-cupped varieties, has four sections. There is one flower to each stem with the cup more than one-third but less than equal to the length of the perianth segments.

Division III, the Small-cupped narcissi, includes varieties with cups not more than one-third the length of the perianth segment, and here again one flower is carried on each stem. There are four sections in this division. For naturalizing in grass, daffodils have no equal and they are also splendid for growing informally in mixed borders and for planting in martial rows in formal beds. The dwarf varieties and species are excellent for the rock garden. They are tolerant of widely differing soil conditions but prefer one which is rich and well drained. Well-rotted farmyard manure can be incorporated in the bottom spit of soil, well below the level of the bulbs and a dressing of hoof and horn or bonemeal at the rate of 4 oz. to the sq. yd. Should be worked into the topsoil. A sunny, open position is ideal but one in semi-shade would give a good show.

Division IV, the Double daffodils, is perhaps not universally popular for there are quite a few gardeners with a distinct bias against double flowers. From N. cyclamineus. Plant as early in the season as possible. August is best but if planting has to be delayed, up to the end of November is all right but the results can be disappointing. Where permanent plantings are made

Division V. the Triandrus daffodils, is where we find the angel’s tears daffodil, Narcissus triandrus albus, which has small, nodding flowers with very reflexed perianth segments. The resemblance to N. triandrus can be clearly seen in all members of this division. Division VII, the Jonquilla daffodils or jonquils, have small to medium-sized flowers often carried in clusters and sweetly scented.

Division VI, for Cyclamineus daffodils, Division VIII, the Tazetta daffodils, includes the Poetaz hybrids which have several good-sized flowers on each stem and are especially useful for cutting. They are the result of crossing N. poeticus, the poet’s narcissus, with N. tazetta, which has clusters of small, sweetly scented flowers.

Division IX comprises garden varieties and hybrids of N. poeticus and is known as Poeticus.

Division X includes those species that occur in the wild.

Division XI is reserved for all those which do not fit in anywhere else.

It is best to leave the bulbs alone until it is obvious that overcrowding is affecting quality. They can then be divided in the autumn when offsets can be removed.

For the larger daffodils, 4 to 6 in. is the recommended planting depth, those plantings made in heavier soils being set rather less deeply than others in light soils. The dwarf daffodils or narcissi are planted 2 to 3 in. deep and these need a rather grittier rooting medium with sharper drainage than their more robust relatives.


Given a sunny, sheltered and well-drained border, Nerine bowdenii will raise distinctive heads of pink flowers on 14-ft. Stems in September and October. It should be protected from November to April with bracken or straw and topdressed in August with leafmould or manure.

Plant between August and November, setting the bulbs 3 in. deep and 4 in. apart. Increase by offsets between July and September.


Ornithogalum umbellatum, the star of Bethlehem, whose star-shaped flowers are white inside and white marked with green on the outside, is a useful plant for a mixed border, for the rock garden or for naturalizing in grass or among shrubs. It grows 10 to 12 in. high and flowers in May. Lift and divide the clumps every three years or so as this is a plant which increases rapidly.

For May and June flowering there is O. nutans which is taller at 14 ft. and greener in its colouring. O. thyrsoides is the chincherinchee. It has long, thickish foliage and the dense heads of starry white flowers are excellent and long lasting when cut. It should be given a warm, well-drained position and winter protection of bracken, straw or similar material.

Plant all 3 to 4 in. deep and 6 in. apart between August and November.


The following members of this genus have tuberous rootstocks and as such qualify for mention here. Give them all a well-drained soil in a sunny position.

At 3 in. tall Oxalis adenophylla is a plant for the rock garden which it will grace in May and June with pink starry flowers against crinkled foliage. O. deppei is a copper-red colour and it can become very invasive. It should be regularly divided every autumn. O. enneaphylla has much divided, fan-shaped leaves and white flowers. O. floribunda (rosea) has bright pink flowers.


Puschkinia scilloides, the striped squill, is a distinctive dwarf plant (6 in.) for providing colour in the early spring. The white, blue-striped flowers, as the specific name indicates, resemble those of a scilla (bluebell), to which it is closely related. Plant in a rock garden or sunny border in September or October 3 in. deep and 3 to 4 in. apart. Increase by offsets from old bulbs in late autumn or by seeds raised in a cold frame and sown in August or September.


The tuberous-rooted ranunculuses are popular as cut flowers and they are also worthy border subjects during May and June. Plant the tubers in October or November, late February or March with the claws facing downwards. The planting depth should be 2 to 3m, with 4 to 6 in. between the plants. Increase by seeds raised in a cold frame or cool greenhouse. They like sunny, sheltered conditions.

The Double Turban ranunculus are obtainable in separate colours including scarlet, orange and yellow as well as mixed shades. There are also the Giant French varieties and the double Persian mixed strain.

Salvia patens is a tuberous-rooted perennial with large blue sage-like flowers on 2-ft. Stems from July to September. The tubers can be planted 4 to 5 in. deep and 15 in. apart in mid-April and they can be started into growth in a large flower pot under glass in early April and hardened off for planting out at the end of May.

The tubers should be lifted about the middle of October, dried and stored as for dahlias, for although the roots are hardy frost may kill the young shoots as they emerge in the spring.


The Kaffir lily is a handsome bulbous subject for the autumn border provided it is given warm, sunny conditions and a good loamy soil. Protection with straw or bracken is necessary in the winter. Plant between October and March and lift and divide the bulbous rhizomes every third year in March or April.

The species Schizostylis coccinea has crimson flowers on 1 to 14-ft. Spikes. It has several good varieties of which I would recommend the September—October flowering Mrs Hegarty or the November-flowering Viscountess Byng. Both have pink flowers.


This is the genus to which the bluebell belongs and the first species to bloom in the year is the February-flowering Siberian squill, Scilla sibirica. The intensely blue blooms are borne in profusion on 4 to 6-in. Stems. Larger than the type is the variety atrocaerulea, or Spring Beauty, which also has flowers of a rich blue colouring. This is followed by S. tubergeniana with flowers of pale blue and white. It is very effective when grown in groups in borders on the rock garden or in grass in sunny positions.

A species for a warm, sunny position is S. peruviana with ball-shaped heads of flowers on 9-in, stems in May and June.

The Spanish bluebell is now Endymion hispanicus but it used to be Scilla campanulata (hispanica). It looks good naturalized in light shade, among shrubs or under trees, and there are fine named varieties like the pale blue Myosotis, the tall Imperator, with pure white flower spikes, and Queen of the Pinks, a rosy-pink variety. The English bluebell, now E. non-scriptus, is very well known. It has both white and pink forms, all being excellent for naturalizing.

Plant in ordinary soil at any time between August and November, 2 to 4 in. deep and 4 in. apart. S. peruviana should be planted 6 in. deep and 6 in. apart. Increase by offsets in autumn.


These brilliantly coloured subjects live up to their common name of the harlequin flowers for the spring blooms come in colours like red, purple, black, white and yellow. The flowers are often up to 2 in. across on stems 6 to 9 in. high. The narrow foliage is also very attractive.

They need a warm, sunny position and a fairly dry soil, and protection from bracken or other material is necessary in very cold weather. Plant the corms in autumn, 4 in. deep and 2 in. apart. Increase by offsets.


Sternbergia lutea is a charming little plant for autumn colour. The golden-yellow crocus-like flowers will look attractive in a border, in a rock garden, or when naturalized in grass. It grows to about 6 in. in height and has strap-shaped leaves.

The bulbs should be planted 4 to 6 in. deep and 6 in. apart in July in a sunny, well-drained position. Protect in winter with straw or bracken. Propagation is by the new bulbs produced every year.


The unusual and exotic flowers of the tiger flower, Tigridia pavonia, are evocative of the country from which they come, Mexico. The orange-red, three-petalled flowers are spotted at the base with deeper colouring. There are also forms with pinkish, mauve, yellow and white colouring. Unfortunately each flower has only a brief day of glory in late summer and early autumn but each 2-ft. Stem produces several flowers to open in succession. This plant needs a sunny border and a moist but well-drained soil.

Plant the corms 3 in. deep and 6 in. apart in April and lift to store in October. Increase by offsets removed in April.


The wake robin or American wood lily, Trillium grandiflorum, is a tuberous perennial. It is valuable because of its liking for rather damp, shady places and is an excellent plant for woodland conditions. Give it a peaty soil, topdress annually with decayed leaves and leave undisturbed for as long as possible, dividing when necessary in March. The white flowers, some 3 in. across, are carried on 11-ft. Stems above whorls of practically stemless broad leaves in May. There is a pink variety, roseum.


Tulips run a close second to the daffodils for the title of most popular flowering bulb with their bright, dazzling range of colours and diversity of shape and form. They are happy growing in any reasonable garden soil provided it is well prepared and will thrive in sunshine and semi-shade. Tulips can be grown in a variety of situations but possibly look their best when interplanted with subjects which flower at the same time such as aubrietas, forget-me-nots, violas and wallflowers. Many combinations are possible, all of which give a lovely, long-flowering effect. They should all be planted about 4 in. deep and 6 in. apart in October and November.

Tigridia pavonia can be propagated by offsets or seeds. Those used for bedding purposes should be lifted and replanted in a reserve bed until the foliage has withered when they can be lifted again and stored in a cool, airy room until replanting time comes round. In fact the bulbs of the garden varieties benefit from an annual lifting whereas those of the species can be left undisturbed for several years.

I shall start this brief summary with the species tulips which are becoming increasingly popular. Many of them can be grown on the rock garden or as edgings to other plantings. A warm position with good drainage is needed for Tulipa clusiana, the lady tulip, but this elegant species is a joy in April when its red, white and purple flowers are in the full flush of their beauty. T. eichleri starts to flower at the end of March on 15-in. Stems. The scarlet blooms have petals marked with black, yellow-margined blotch.

T. kaufmanniana is the water lily tulip, a species which has given us a wonderful range of March-April flowering hybrids, all 6 to 8 in. tall and suitable for rock gardens or borders.

The small flowers of T. orphanidea are an attractive, unusual orange shade and those of T. praestans Fusilier a spectacular orange scarlet on 9-in. Stems. T. tarda flowers in late April—early May and has yellow flowers with yellowish-green and white markings on 6-in. Stems.

The garden varieties are so numerous that they have been classified into groups as follows. Early Singles which flower in mid-April and are about 1 ft. tall; Early Doubles which are of a similar height and flower at the end of April. Darwin tulips flower in May on 2-ft. or longer stems and have well-shaped flowers in lovely colours: Cottage tulips share the same height and flowering period but the flowers are of a less regimental shape. The elegant lily-flowered tulips have waisted flowers. Rebrandts resemble Darwins in all respects but colour having stripes and blotched flowers. Old English tulips are very regular and refined in form whereas Parrot tulips have flowers with curiously twisted and slashed petals, blotched with green. Then there are the Mendel and Triumph tulips, the late Doubles and the Fosteriana hybrids. The Greigii hybrids are especially notable for their lovely colouration and the handsome markings on the leaves. They are April flowering at 9 to 12 in. The Multi-flowered tulips have several flowers on each stem. The Viridiflora or green tulips flower in May on 9 to 24-in, stems and they have distinctive green markings on the petals. In the Fringed tulips, as the name implies, the edges of the petals are fringed or serrated. Broken varieties have lovely markings on the petals which are unusually attractive.


Zephyranthes candida is the zephyr flower of the west wind from America. The handsome star-like flowers appear on 6 to 12-in, stems well above the grass-like foliage in September. It is another subject for a warm sunny border, preferably against a south wall and a light, sandy, well-drained soil. The bulbs should be planted between August and November 4 in. deep and 4 in. apart and given winter protection. It can be increased by offsets during the same period.

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