Glad for Gladioli

I’ve always loved Gladdies. Such theatrical flowers on dramatic tall spikes which shoot up from relatively small corms and with so few roots it’s a wonder they stand up at all. They are also neat and slim, taking up very little room in the garden which makes them good value plants in my book.

So this year, in the cutting garden, I planted 30 corms in just one square metre, 6 rows of 5 corms each. I bought them as a bag of mixed colours for £2.99 which, as it turned out, was incredibly good value.

As usual with these things, opinions vary wildly on the best way to grow them but I decided to follow Trevor Fawcett’s advice in Garden News and planted them in a raised bed with well drained, humus rich soil and a little added bonemeal. The other tip I rather liked was to plant the corms about 4″ deep but on a layer of sharp sand and then also cover them with sharp sand before backfilling with soil. This improves drainage around the corm but also makes the corm come out clean when you lift them in autumn.

All the corms grew but some grew quicker than others which staggered the flowering period nicely. Instead of individual canes to support them, I put canes around the edge and weaved string across in both directions at 12 and 24 inches high which made 30 individual 6″ square pockets to support the weighty flower spikes.

In August, I was so pleased with some of them that I entered the best ones in our local Horticultural Show and won second prize for the three best stems!

Last week I cut down the remaining foliage and lifted the corms. They did indeed come up easily and cleanly and only needed a shake to loosen all the soil from the corms. I cut off the roots and literally hundreds of baby cormlets which would, eventually, grow into corms if grown on. However, I decided that life was too short and as the flowering size corms are so inexpensive I will simply buy more if I need them. The new corms, which have grown on top of the old corms, are three times bigger so I am expecting bigger and better flowers next year with all that additional goodness.

They are now upside down in a mushroom tray lined with newspaper in a warm room for 3 weeks and when they are completely dry I will pull away the foliage and break off the old corm which should apparently both come away easily and cleanly, and then the corms will go into a paper bag filled with shredded paper and stay in a frost free place, probably in the garage, until late spring when the cycle will begin again. I am hooked on these simple, reliable and showy flowers so I will be looking out for some different colours and types to see if I can win that elusive first prize at next year’s show!

3 thoughts on “Glad for Gladioli

  1. Interesting info on growing here. It made me want to explain a completely different approach which works wonders too. Not to confuse but add to. This is to grow them on/in a layer of heavy pure garden sub soil rather than sand. Reason for this is they hate organic matter like compost around the corm this causes diseases as it breaks down and eventual rot of the whole bulb follows. So what to do if you wan to feed at planting is dig a bed or large pot and put a nice mixture of coconut fibre e.g. (organics) with compost, sand, bone meal and earth whatever, to about three quarters full, stamp down lightly. Then put in a layer of pure earth (no organic material at all) it can even be heavy earth like a crumbled clay mixture, plant the bulbs on this layer firm down but not too much then cover with more of the heavy pure earth (whole layer around 20-30cm thick-bulb in the middle) then water once completely. They like to be planted relatively deeply this keeps them from flopping over too.

    This way the bulbs stay encased in pure earth while the roots get fed bellow. Sand has no nutrients. If you mix the bone meal in the sand it has to rot down first to release nutrients and this also causes bulb disease and rot, same with top dressing of compost or bone meal this causes stem rot and botritis etc, as does mixing compost or bone meal in the top layer at planting.

    Planting this way you can leave the bulbs in the ground indefinitely if your climate is suitable and soil fertile. As long as winter is bone dry they are happy encased in this hard tomb and will shoot up with the first rains in summer. If its a small bed and you want to go the extra mile you can even cover with plastic sheeting to keep bone dry this way they can take quite a bit of cold. Lifting every three years or so to sort out the large bulbs if you wish to plant again somewhere else or maintain flowers only and no new pure foliage growth on the hundreds of little bulbs.

    People think its drainage thats critical but its not it’s rotting organic matter that causes trouble. In fact these bulbs grow in seasonally damp spots in the wild happily and like a lot of water in full growth but also a nice long dry winter rest.

    If you need to lift them after the foliage has completely died off, its relatively easy to take pieces of the hard dry layer and break them apart releasing the bulbs but storing them encased in this layer in a cold dry place works even better, it insulates, they dont dry out or reduce in size much at all.

    If you dont want to feed its even easier but the blooms might not be as large. However as long as the soil is even moderately fertile you will still get a fantastic display. Simply plant them in pure unmodified earth using no organic materials at all.

    Commercially they are grown in a very sandy loam as preferance and drip fertilised and sprayed with fungicide on a weekly/daily basis not the most green method.

    I love gladioli they work so well in a natural planting with grasses and there are some spectacular colours. For my taste its best going with just one colour but for picking for the vase the sky is the limit to the colours available.

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