The Cottage Gardener 11: 80 (Nov. 3, 1854)

THE GUERNSEY LILY
(Nerine Sarniensis)
CHAS. BD. SAUNDERS,
Caesarean Nursery, Jersey.

THE history of the introduction of the above plant to our greenhouses, conservatories, and parterres, and its mode of cultivation in the island of Guernsey, are of such interest as to induce me to lay before your readers what little I know respecting this much-cherished favorite.

This interesting plant was found growing about the middle of the seventeenth century on the sand banks in the Vale parish, Guernsey, supposed to have been washed there with the debris of a Japanese vessel wrecked on the coast. Some cottagers discovered it in bloom, and took it home to their own gardens and planted it, thereby originating a source of employment, and remuneration for their industry and that of their successors; the grower now looking as much forward for a portion of his revenue from his crop of Guernsey Lilies as from any other crop be may have growing on his land. I cannot doubt the correctness of this time being the period of its introduction, as in walking through the picture gallery at Hampton Court Palace, in 1851, I discovered, in one of the rooms, a drawing of it with the figures 16 9 on it (I could not distinguish the third figure in the row,) and do not doubt the drawing was made soon after its introduction. I think this sufficient evidence as to the period, as I find it to correspond with the date specified in Loudon’s "Hortus Brittanicus," 1659.

The persons cultivating the Guernsey Lily with most success invariably select a low, sheltered, spot, where the ground is of a light, sandy texture, mixed with loam, under the protection of trees — (part of an apple orchard, for instance, sheltered by an elm hedge, of a description for which the island is famous) — wherein they are planted in rows, according to the width of the strip allotted for the purpose, as close together as they can be, allowing just sufficient room for spreading the roots; about two inches between the roots, and ten to twelve inches between the rows, burying the bulbs but half-way up, leaving the necks entirely exposed. The usual season for planting them out is the middle or latter end of September, as soon as the roots begin to grow: this being an indication that they will not bloom that season. After planting, they are left without any sort of protection but that afforded by the locality; and they make their growth during the winter months. which   if favourable, and not very frosty, so as to allow the full development of the leaves, ensures an abundant bloom during the ensuing August and September. The beds are generally left for years without transplanting, and the visitor is often astonished, in going into these Lily grounds, to find the roots growing in clusters all along the rows, thrusting one another, as it were, out of the ground, from the rapid increase of the roots, As the blooming season comes on, the elderly ladies, for it scents their prerogative, as far as I have had an opportunity of observing, go along the beds or rows, marking out with little sticks the roots which show any indication of blooming buds, so as to be able the more readily to take them up on the market mornings, or when application is made for them by the dealers; and it is astonishing the power of vision our worthy friends display in their peculiar avocation, discriminating the flowering from the non-flowering roots with an aptness which has made me and many younger owners of a pair of good eyes blush at our imperfection in their peculiar pursuit.

They are sold at prices varying from 2s. to 4s. per dozen; the dealers collecting them and sending them in quantities to the different nursery seedsmen and private customers throughout the United Kingdom, by whom they are distributed to the boudoirs and conservatories.

The theory that the same root never blooms twice is incorrect; as I have, at this present moment, one before me which flowered last season, and have often had them to bloom a second time.

I attribute the fickleness and uncertainty of thick blooming more to the unfavourableness of the mode of culture than to any other cause; and I have also noticed, when the winters have been long and severe, there has not been such an abundant bloom as in milder seasons,

Belladonna Lilies (Amaryllis Belladonna) are cultivated in a similar manner; with the exceptions of planting them deeper, and they require a richer soil, and more space to grow in, the roots being much larger and grosser feeders than those of the more admired favourite, whose pretty rosy-crimson umbel of flowers is adored by all who have the gratification of seeing it well bloomed.