Poking in the garden section of the store this spring I came across a bag of assorted gladiola bulbs. My impression of glads is of bayonets marching across a field, unemotional, strict, awkward but colorful. I bought the bag thinking they would be a colorful backdrop against the shed and the house. They would hide the downspout and drainpipe, and soften the yews at the shed. It said, plant in early spring when ground can be worked. Plant 3″ deep. Did that. Meanwhile, up came the crocuses, the grape hyacinths, the Emperor tulips, then the daffodils and finally the May flowering tulips. I noticed tiny shoots of the glads appearing. I planted the alyssum, petunias, impatiens, dusty miller (which didn’t do at all well), magnificent yellow marigolds, cosmos and cleome, both those are tall. Finally the stalks of bayonets grew and buds appeared. They were as tall as the cosmos but way more dignified. The first to bloom were deep magenta. A remarkable color because people commented on their astonishing beauty. Then came the peach colors then the salmons and now the corals. I don’t know why they bloom in color groups. These are great for indoor arrangements. The start to bloom from the bottom up. As the bottom blossoms die you easily pick them off. You can keep shortening the stem, also, or not. You can make a tall vase arrangement or a short one.
Some think of these as funeral flowers. Some think of hostas as cemetery plants. I guess it depends where you first saw them. I first saw gladiolas in England when I was living in a castle. My friend was having her ‘coming out” party and her mother and aunt were doing the flowers for different rooms. The rooms were very large compared to American homes and they needed massed grouping. Glads were great for that because of their height and strong colors. They chose orange and yellow for their arrangements. Quite stunning.
The colors remind me of the way silk takes a dye, You can get a huge variety of subtle, pale shades without getting washed out faded looking colors.
So, in the fall, in the north, dig up the bulbs and put them in an onion bag or dry sand and store them in a cool dry place like a basement or closet. In spring, plant them again.