The first time I saw a gladiolus was back in the ’60s at the Minnesota State Fair. At that time, every farm family worth its salt grew them. The fair is at the very end of August when glads are at their prime, so along with dahlias, they were always (and probably still are) the most popular entry in the floral competitions.
My next encounter with gladiolus wasn’t until the late ’80s, when I had a little side business arranging wedding flowers (mostly from my own garden). I had agreed to do the flowers for a woman at work, who was marrying into a local farm family. The mid-August wedding was taking place on the family farm, and the woman’s future mother-in-law asked me to include some flowers from her own garden in the two large arrangements that would flank the couple when they said their vows.
The day before the wedding, I arranged to meet her and pick up the flowers. Imagine my surprise when I saw the flowers she took out of her car: three dozen white gladiolas. She also gave me two white plastic baskets with big round plastic handles that she wanted me to use for the two bouquets. I recognized them immediately as funeral baskets, but she obviously didn’t know that.
My solution was to wrap the handles with grape and clematis vines and balance those stiff and proper glads by surrounding them with stems cut from my Annabelle hydrangea. In the end, the baskets actually looked pretty good, but it was a nail-biter all the way.
Then, a couple years ago, I began growing gladiolus in my own cutting garden. It was the variety Green Star that won me over. They’re an amazing addition to a bouquet of burgundy or purple/blue flowers. I’ve also tried (and like) the lovely soft pink glad Rose Supreme. Not sure I’m ready for the full range of rainbow colors, but it may happen.
If you’re planting gladiolus corms, now’s the time. You may still find some at a local nursery or at Dutch Gardens. To ensure a continuous supply of flowers for cutting, it’s best to plant about a third of the corms as soon as the ground has warmed up, wait two weeks to plant the next third, then plant the rest by the end of June or so. You’ll find everything you need to know about growing glads in this article: The Basics of Growing Gladiolus.
-Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening