Some friends brought us a huge bouquet of gladioli the other day – four bunches containing red, purple, orange and peach ones.
They were barely in flower when they arrived, but they have since started to open up and we have placed them in two tall vases and they actually look very good. In fact, the more the flowers open, the more I like them.
Why is this strange? Well, who likes gladioli? I mean, I have always thought of them as the Rodney Dangerfield of flowers – they get no respect. I still remember how people referred to them in a derogatory way as “funeral flowers” or “church flowers”.
I don’t think I have ever seen any growing in any of the gardens I’ve visited. No, really, I am trying to think if I have ever seen gladioli growing in a garden anywhere and, well, I can’t say I have.
They grow from a corm, although they are always lumped in with summer bulbs, and they are said to be easy to grow if you plant them in well-drained soil in a sunny location.
You don’t see them in gardens any more because (I think) the florist industry has taken them over and they are now mostly grown in greenhouses for retail and florist shops and such.
The rule is to plant corms 10 cm (4 inches) apart and about as deep. They need water to produce those lovely flowers. If you keep the plants dry and thirsty, the flowers won’t form. They flower about three months after planting.
Some years ago, I believe someone did write to me and say they were growing dozens of glads in containers. I guess my prejudice got the better of me and I dismissed this idea since I literally knew no one else in gardening remotely interested in gladioli.
Like dahlias, they die if left in the ground over winter. People who love them and grow them with enthusiasm, judiciously lift them and store them and replant in spring.
Again, in 30 years of gardening, I have never met anyone who does this, but research tells me there are people, especially in the UK, who do this.
Today, however, like the Dave Clark song says, “I’m feeling glad all over” because the gladioli my friends gave us are “all mine.”