August 28, 2010

If GLEE was a flower...

Gladiolus, straight and tall, at a Gladiolus society show hosted by the Western Massachusetts Gladiolus Society.

The poor, poor gladiolus. Under-appreciated, and more likely to be associated with funeral sprays and rubber-banded into boring take-away bundles at the super market, than the show bench, the lowly glad is sad. But wait.....it's not too late to change ones association with the Gladiolus....instead of church alter , think mass planting in perennial border. Instead funeral spray , think orchids on a stick. Instead of thinking of mesh bags at Home Depot t, think stately 5 foot tall spikes of fabulous color. Don't be mad, be glad!

 Here, a mini Glad called 'Holy Moly', captured a top award.

Here is my odd observation:  Glads are one of those plants that for whatever reason, men grow more than women. Probably because in the 1940's, the Gladiolus was sold in feed and grain and hardware stores, where corms could be purchased in the spring, when one bought their seed potatoes or onion sets. These were not ladies plants, and thus, were banished to the rear of the Asparagus beds or behind tomato plants, as if men were embarrassed to grow such lovely and yet, frivolous flowers.
So if you think ho hum, when someone mentions the Glad, think again. If the Dahlia can have a comeback party, maybe it's also time for the show Glad to have it's coming out party. If show choir's cna make a comeback, so too can the Glad.

Sure, they are more garishly colored, but I think the reasons men aren't repelled by them has to do more with their ease of culture ( carefree) than it has with the fact that they are flowers. I equate the cultural preference of men owning the outside grill,  of that with men growing glads. Glads are acceptable to men, because they are generally grown in the vegetable garden, and not in borders or beds. One never fusses over them; Glad's are a hose-em-down,  spread-manure-on-em type of plant. They are Simple and straight forward. They are not emotional or frilly. Planted in stiff rows, they are  more soldier like than graceful.  Glad's are man flowers through and through, as male as a steak on the grill.  They come in a color palette that ranged from fire engine red, to John Deer yellow. I associate them with steamy summer afternoons picking string beans under the hot sun,  baseball game playing on an outdoor radio, barefoot and shirtless, a cooler of beer or a swig of cool water from a garden hose. Glad's are pure summer.

This variety, called 'Smoke and Mirrors' was particularly eye catching.

Hardly shy, the Gladiolus is pure impressive. Like so many plants which were popular in the 1940's and 1950's, the Gladiola have fallen out of fashion. But  a new generation is discovering these pushed aside South African beauties who have suffered a bad PR beating.

I'm sure the reasons are many, for like most plant societies, membership is dropping, and new members are few and far between. Most Gladiolus society members are over 70 years old, if not in their 80's. Reaching a peak in the post war period when in the late 1940's and 1950's it seemed that everyone grew at least one row of Glads in the back of the vegetable garden, today, the idea of cut flower gardens is becoming popular, but the glad is overlooked for many reasons, but mostly I think because of it's association with cheap, florist flowers. After all, who wants to grow Football mums, Carnations, or white glads?

Judges examine a table of Gladiolus at the Western Massachusetts Gladilus Society show at the Eastfield Mall, in Springfield, MA.

 New Glads are more fancy, more tall, more colorful. The Glad named 'Art Show' had amazing ruffles, even the buds had ruffles.

If you decide to grow some gladiolus, go for the best, and order some new varieties from a specialist breeder. Why not look for the same varieties people grow for exhibition, for these are the absolute best. Amazing colors, incredible ruffling, massive stems and flowers, these are hardly your grandpa's glads.

Really though, there isn't much subtlety in the world of Glads, check out some of these names from a catalog:  Fire Engine, Astroman, Dynamite, Exclamation, Easy Rider, Imperial Master, Mr. Lincoln, Royal Spice, Starfighter, Spitfire, Smokin, Storm Clouds, Torch, and Violence. ( All  from the 2010 catalog of Pleasant Valley Glads).

Next year, try ordering some exhibition Glads ( not the ones you find in your typical bulb catalogs or at the local nursery. Go for the extraordinary. Check out the Gladiolus Society site, and links for more info. Glads are easy to grow, relatively care free, they just want lots of water and warm summers, and they are relatively inexpensive. The really good ones may cost you a couple of dollars each, but then today, so does a good cup of coffee. Save the corms every fall in your cellar, and before long, if you buy a few each year, you will have a collection. Try ordering some to grow and then enter them in a local Gladiolus society show ( check on line for one in your area) or better yet, order a couple dozen and plant them in a large clump in your perennial bed, they make amazing exclamation points when grown en-masse, and cars will stop to ask you what are you growing that can give you such color in August.

This spice colored form was a favorite of ours.

 Some color combinations were very showy.

Interested in learning more about the Gladiolus? Look here for a chapter near you. Most clubs will have both shows in the autumn, and bulb sales or auctions in the spring. Some have social dinners, and meetings throughout the winter.

For other websites, try these.
The North American Gladiolus Council

To order corms, try these specialists:

Cates Family Glads

Blooming Prairie Gardens

Pleasant Valley Glads Our local grower, and the guys who were at this show. Amazing selection.

Honker Flats in Minnesota growers

Noweta Gardens Big retail grower

LITHUANIAN GLAD SUPPLIERS ( They say they ship worldwide) ( Hey, I'm Lithianian, so I thought I'd include it)


Unique Gladioli

 There are many green Gladilous, and are often overlooked by people wanting to grow green flowers.
This is the variety which one best of show, aptly named, 'Star Performer'


  1. I love Glee and I like glads too. I don't grow them personally, but I'm definitely not ashamed to grow other colorful flowers! The glads really do need a resurgence.

  2. Matt, this post reminds me to take another look at glads. I've been planting the "heirloom" glads in the garden, hoping to be charmed, but so far haven't been. Whatever size or provenance, glads are difficult bulbs to site among other plants. But why not a big splashy pot of them, like that spice-colored one, the same way I grow tulips, except I don't have to toss the bulbs? So that will be this year's strategy. Not ready to give up on these just yet.

  3. Hi i am in Miami, where i can buy Gladiolus Bulbs?




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