January 23, 2010

Gladiolus priorii, and other Winter Blooming Species

We all are familiar with the common Gladiolus, an all too common florist flower often seen in funeral sprays, or in summer garden shows in bright colors. But, there are a slew of wild species available ( mostly from seed) 163 species, to be exact, most of which are native to the winter rainfall areas South Afirca, and most, are pot worthy for a cool greenhouse in the northern hemisphere. I think I am truly becoming addicted to these little known species.

One of my favorites is Gladiolus tristis, a fragrant winter blooming species which will not blooms until March, for us here in New England, but it you live in California, many of these species can be great garden plants. Two years ago, after planting a pot of G. tristis bulbs in September, and watering them, I was surprised with a flower stalk, which arrived just after the foliage emerged. Obviously, a different species of Gladiolus had become mixed up with the G. tristis, and what I had first identified and G. huttonii, I now believe is the fall blooming G. priorii. SInce it either blooms in October, or even as late as January, and, they flowers dangle, looking down to the ground.

I'm still not certain, but these things are often muddy, since there are few books which show all of the many Gladiolus species, and even fewer that show photographs. I am relying on the web site of the Pacific Bulb Society, which has an awesome site with many member images of interesting bulbs. I suggest that you consider joining them, since not only are they friendly and fun, they have an amazing network of growers and fans, who are all very active on line, and in exchanging seed and bulbs of rare and hard to find geophytes.

This cold, January morning, I was again, surprised to see a single flower stem of this salmon colored gladiolus, which had nestled itself in a Nerine undulata umbel. With all of the ice and bitter cold outside, these colors glowed in the sunshine that was reflecting off of the snow.Later in the year, this same pot will have a dozen or so fragrant stems of G. tristis, but for now, it brightens this very chilly day, and makes winter more interesting.

Some Gladiolus tristis from last year, which bloomed in February and March. As you can see, the entire plant is more delicate and less gaudy than it's showy cousins of which we are so familiar with. These are truly coinnoisseur Glads.
THe scent of these G. tristis are beguiling and crazy rich, but only at night. During the day, they are almost scentless, so plan to bring a pot into the house on a cold, March evening. These, are from last year.

Gladiolus tristis can be grown, both in the summer, or the winter ( from different stock, either planted in the fall, or in the spring in pots in the north.).
While looking in my files for the G. tristis images, I was lost for a few minutes in the folders entitled March. Such fresh images of spring, are so hopeful, aren't they? At least from the snowy perspective of mid January.


  1. Love the nerine with the gladiolus - beautiful photo.

  2. How beautiful, I'm not familiar with these, but the are rather lovely.

    RO :o)

  3. I've mostly unsuccessfully been trying to grow species glads for years, off and on. Was looking up sources for another round of tried, and found this post. Enjoyed it! And you're right, the Pacific Bulb Society is amazing, you can learn tons there.


It's always a good thing to leave a comment!