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Vermont Garden Journal: Gladiolus

flickr/pizzodisevo, slowly i will recover

Fri 5/24/13 5:55 pm & Sun 5/26/13 9:35 am  This South African native flower is also known as the sword lily. It's in the iris family and gardeners have been breeding and growing it for hundreds of years. It's the birth flower of August and said to symbolize infatuation. Have you guessed it yet? It's the gladiolus.

I have to admit, when I say gladiolus I normally think of funeral flowers. But that's actually a compliment to this colorful bulb. Gladiolus makes excellent cut flowers and the stems are so showy you really feel like you're getting your money's worth when you grow them. While most gardeners are familiar with the large and colorful flowered hybrids, there are many heirloom and species types that have smaller, more delicate stalks and are tougher plants. The 'Nana' gladiolus have 2 foot tall flower stalks and small, orchid-like flowers. 'Atom' gladiolus grows less than 3 feet tall with bright red, fringed in white, flowers. And the heirloom 'Abyssinian Glad' features small white flowers with a purple throat and a sweet fragrance.

Whether you're growing one of the hundreds of hybrids or experimenting with some of these smaller species types, you grow gladiolus the same way. Glads like a well drained soil in full sun. They grow from corms planted in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Since they're often used as a cut flower, plant in rows so you can care for them easier. Keep well watered and spray neem oil to control thrips insects that can attack the flowers. Consider staking or supporting tall varieties to keep the flower stalks straight. When about three blossoms are open on the stalk, cut it at the base and bring it indoors to let the rest of the flowers open. In fall dig and store the corms indoors.

Now for this week's tip, in shady areas consider planting colorful foliage annuals such as coleus, perilla, and alternanthera. These add brightness to dark corners without relying on flowers.

Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about dogwoods. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Heirloom Gladiolus Bulbs How to Grow Gladiolus

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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