Last week, looking at the genus Gladiolus I mentioned the winter growing glads as species that struggle with heat and humidity. Though this is true, I have observed through spring and summer a stand of butterfly gladiolas. They came on strong, bloomed early and went into dormancy long before this heat arrived. I believe for those looking for unique bulbs to flower mid-spring, this class of gladiolas is a good risk.
Gardening for years in the moderate climate of north coastal California, I had opportunity to grow a few of these species. G. tristis was one of my favorites because of its color and early bloom. Reminiscent of creamy butter, the pale-yellow flowers are wider than they are tall and lightly fragrant. Another, G. callianthus (formerly Acidanthera bicolor) bears the same fragrance and a striking bloom colored white with a maroon star in the throat. Provide well-drained soil for these and instructions to lift the corms each year should not be necessary.
Some gardeners group these in the butterfly glad category – an unofficial classification that makes reference to the shape of the flower rather than its ability to attract members of the Lepidoptera family. Butterfly glads are easily obtained through many mail-order catalogs. For brighter colors, look for ‘Atom’, ‘Redwing’ or ‘Winter-hardy’ gladiolus (a mix of various shades of pink).
A few of the South African natives are reluctant to “open wide”. The uppermost petal curls forward and gives the flower a “hooded” appearance. G. papilio and natalensis both fall in this description. I have not grown these gladiolas with their unique flower form, but cultivation should be similar to the other species – good drainage and at least half a day of sun.
Another intriguing variety acquired from an Appalachian homestead dating back to the 1920’s is named ‘Boone’. Old House Gardens offers plants of this apricot-hued antique and recommends it be placed in a perennial bed. Visit them on the web to see ‘Boone’s picture or receive a catalog.
August leaves much to be glad about. I am glad God was so creative and generous in the flower varieties He gave us. I am glad we were given the ambition and knowledge that lets us expand a flower’s color spectrum, heat and cold tolerance and lengthen of bloom time. I am especially glad to find my heart drawn to His beauty, manifested in creation and the ability to share that with you!
LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct any questions to her, especially about tree selection, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.