Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nice Gladiolus. Forgive me I have no idea of the cultivar because it was a gift from a client

We should all grow more Glads. I resolve to put them into more designs. Think of the pluses: they come in a range of colors unmatched by any other flower...well maybe roses? The foliage is a wonderful vertical textural element. They flower in the summer after the flush of perennials is finished. In addition to thousands of cultivars, there are several hundred species and within the framework of their basic structure, there is an extensive range of sizes and flower shapes. Are they perfect?

They are not. There are a few issues that always arise in respect to these flowers but at least a few of them are easily addressed. The larger (standard) forms require some kind of support....so grow shorter varieties and/0r plant the corms deeper in the ground so the stalk is partially supported by soil. They aren't hardy in the Washington DC area....Well, if you can bring yourself to look for the silver lining inside of Global Warming....they are hardy here now. Especially if you plant them 9-10 inches deep, which of course helps them to stand up! The other big issue that I hear about is that for many people, Gladioli, in some Pavlovian way, evoke images of funerals. I can't do anything about that except suggest that maybe you stay away from the cliched orange color, unless, of course, you like it!

The Internet has made it tough for plant pornography in the print media. Still I own two copies of The Color Encyclopedia of Cape Bulbs, from Timber Press: one for Maryland and one for Florida. Like real porn (I know this only in theory) they keep working their way to my nightstands. There are more species of Gladiolus than you would ever have imagined. They're all beautiful and this book will make you want to grow them all. Silverhill Seeds and Books, located in South Africa, is a source for seeds of thousands of African Plants including most pictured in the Cape Bulbs book. A simpler source is Annie's Annuals and Perennials, a California nursery that does mail order and offers a continually changing selection of, mostly xeric, Zone 7,8,9 plants. Admittedly most are 8 or 9, but we can grow ?25% ? of their catalogue and they ship plants from inside the US as opposed to having to import southern hemisphere seeds.

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