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Gardening with Gael - Gladioli regrowing in popularity



thumbnail Gladioli stems-247I am a little late this year with my ‘Remember To plant Bulbs Now’ article but here it is.

The long hot summer has not been conducive to any planting at all, and the buckets of water from the showers and dishes can only go so far. However it is bulb planting time. I am very pleased with myself that I lifted the tulips I raved on about last year and have them cooling in the fridge. I’ve also been scanning Bulbs Direct to satisfy my addiction.

This year I am going to write about a bulb that has recently sprung back into popularity. This quite spectacular flower has not been popular for a while. After a couple of friends had made less than appreciative remarks about these remarkable flowers, I confess I gave them a packet each of some outstanding yellow and red ones. They both had to admit (with quite a bit of encouragement) that when they flowered they were beautiful.

Gladioli – I remember my grandmother referred to them as her ‘glads’. Jozie brought them to my attention when, along with the dahlias, she decided to trial gladioli as well. Her research suggested that they were best planted close together. They have a very shallow root system which struggles to support the large flowers. Usually in my experience each bulb is staked. We dug a square and placed the bulbs a small distance apart, eight bulbs wide and long, not nearly the distance that I would have recommended. Up they all came supporting each other.

Grown en masse they look great. I’ve always found them to look a bit stiff and struggled to find the right spot for them. Planting them in such close proximity I decided they would make an excellent display in a pot on a deck.

The stiff pointed shape of the gladioli, the very thing that makes them a unique garden plant, is the very thing that gives them their name. The name comes from ‘gladius’ which means ‘sword-like’. One Google site described it perfectly: ‘Gladiolus has an extremely heroic meaning. The name comes from the Latin ‘gladius’ which means ‘sword’ and symbolises strength, victory and pride.’

For some, gladioli also represents ‘love at first sight’. A bouquet given conveys that the givers heart has been ‘pierced with passion’. Who knew?

I think this sort of background adds to the significance of the flower and I certainly plan to plant at least a couple of pots of them. I have a wonderful old book, first published in 1967, which has been revised and reprinted several

times until 1986 called ‘Bulbs and Perennials’. Even with the internet I cannot go past this book for illustrations of every bulb. I am sure they can be sourced from any op shop. It was a Reed Methuen publication and I find it invaluable. Julie Grace was the editor of my copy.

Unlike dahlias and many other bulbs, gladioli do not like animal manure but enjoy an occasional feed with general fertiliser or bulb food. They require a sunny position protected from the wind. They take about three months before they flower. It is best to lift them once they have died back to prevent any rotting in the winter. Get the bulbs now but plant very early spring. You’ll be ‘glad’ you did.

The name comes from the Latin ‘gladius’ which means ‘sword’, and symbolises strength, victory and pride.’

I remember my grandmother referred to them as her ‘glads’.

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