Heirloom Bulbs & Garden History  •  So Much More Than New
Read More: Gladiolus
Mar
22
2017

Try This at Home:
Multiplying Glads by Dividing the Corm

Try This at Home: Multiplying Glads by Dividing – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Even if your glad planting season is still months away, here’s a tip from expert Cliff Hartline that you can use whenever that happy time arrives.

Cliff writes my favorite section of the NAGC journal Glad World. It’s a Q & A column titled “Talk Radio,” and a while ago a reader asked, “I heard you can cut corms in two to multiply them. How do you do that?”

First of all, Cliff replied, it’s important to “make sure there are eyes and root nodes on both halves. The eyes go across the corm in only one direction. They are not like potatoes that have eyes everywhere. Peel the husk off before cutting, so you can identify the line of eyes.” Look for small, individual flaps of shiny husk that protect the eyes, or the emerging tips of the eyes themselves.

Don’t do this too early, though. “Without the husk, the corm will dry out quicker, so you need to do this close to the time of planting.”

“After cutting it, put powdered sulfur [available at garden centers or online] on the open wound. This helps seal the scar and protect the corm when it is planted.”

Before going on to cut another corm, sterilize your knife with alcohol.

If you’re feeling lucky, “you can even cut the corm into three or four pieces,” Cliff says, although “this increases the chance that it may not survive.” Even if you only cut it in half, there’s some risk involved, so we recommend you try it with inexpensive glads first (although not Abyssinian glads).

Good luck, have fun, and please let us know how it goes!

Read March’s News, Alerts, & Quotation.

Nov
22
2016

Garden Gate Says
“Your Garden Needs This Flower”

<i>Garden Gate</i> Says “Your Garden Needs This Flower” – www.oldhousegardens.com
‘Carolina Primrose’ gladiolus

There’s an unlikely “cover girl” on the front of Garden Gate’s December issue – gladiolus!

Once scorned as hopelessly out of fashion, glads continue their slow rise back into popularity. Garden Gate’s headline touts their “Gorgeous Color, Dramatic Shape, Old-Fashioned Charm,” and adds “your garden needs this flower!”

To integrate glads into your garden – instead of just growing them for bouquets – check out the article’s excellent tips and photos in “Design Your Garden with Glads.”

There’s a great section on non-traditional glads, too, with photos of our small-flowered, surprisingly hardy ‘Carolina Primrose’ (pictured here) and ‘Atom’ as well as the fragrant Abyssinian glad.

To get your own copy, click the “Free Preview Issue” tab at gardengatemagazine.com. We’re long-time subscribers ourselves, and we know you’ll find a lot to like in Garden Gate!

Oct
20
2016

Can Landscape Cloth
Turn ALL Glads into Perennials?

Can Landscape Cloth Turn ALL Glads into Perennials?

Here in zone-6a Michigan we leave our Byzantine, ‘Boone’ (pictured), and ‘Carolina Primrose’ glads in the ground every winter and they come back and bloom the next year just like any other perennial.

But wouldn’t it be great if ALL glads were that hardy? A recent article in the NAGC journal Glad World makes me think that might just be possible.

In his always excellent “Talk Radio” column, Cliff Hartline says that glad grower Bert Blanton “is noted for NOT digging his glads yearly,” even though he lives in zone-6b Missouri. Bert used to protect his glads in winter with a thick mulch of straw, but he says it “always blew around and I was constantly replacing it.”

So three years ago he tried landscape cloth instead, and it worked so well that he’s been using it ever since.

“I plant my rows six feet apart,” he says, “and cover my aisles and rows with landscape cloth, putting the seams right over the rows.” He pegs it down with wire landscape-cloth pins (also called sod staples), and then rolls it back in the spring.

The only problem? After three years of no digging, “I now have jillions of flowers,” Bert says. “I have about 20 spikes to a foot, and the rows have expanded themselves to 15 inches wide. I am getting so many spikes, it is more than I can sell at the Farmers Market or give away. My spikes are larger than anyone else’s, so I sell them for $2.00 each.”

We’re going to experiment with Bert’s technique this winter, even though our gardens are half a zone colder than his. If you try it, too, please let us know how it works for you and we’ll share our results here.

Sep
22
2016

Our True (and Hardy) Byzantine Glads
vs. the “Weeny Ones”

One of the bulbs I’m most proud of helping to preserve and share with gardeners across the country is our true, American-grown, zone-6 hardy Byzantine gladiolus. It’s both spectacular and very hard to find, as our good customer Sharon Beasley of Newcastle, Oklahoma, pointed out recently on Facebook:

“My most exciting purchase is your Byzantine glads. I saw them in a garden years ago and bought some back then [from another source] that turned out to be the weeny ones. They are cute, but once you have seen the real thing, they don’t seem wonderful at all. I finally ordered some from you last fall and got the real beauties. They bloomed this spring and I am so happy I ordered them.

“I don’t think I’ve seen another catalog that carries the big ones. I think the price gives away whether they are the weeny ones or the real thing. Thank you!”

Since Byzantines are FALL-planted only, now is the time to order yours and make yourself happy like Sharon!

Aug
11
2016

Sad News:
Garden Designer Ryan Gainey Dies in Fire

Sad News: Garden Designer Ryan Gainey Dies in Fire – www.OldHouseGardens.com

The garden world lost a shining star and Old House Gardens lost a loyal friend July 29 when acclaimed garden designer Ryan Gainey died in a fire at his home in Georgia while trying to rescue his three beloved Jack Russell terriers.

Ryan had been ordering from us since 2005, and every now and then he’d call with a question, tip, or just to chat about some interesting old bulb he’d found or whatnot. He was a big fan of gladiolus and couldn’t care less that they were long out of fashion. As an artist he had his own highly personal and creative vision, and – happily for us – glads were a part of it, along with Roman hyacinths and many other heirlooms. (For a glimpse of Ryan’s garden style, see the 1993 book The Well-Placed Weed.)

At his website, Ryan is described as “internationally-known, madly passionate, stimulating, thought-provoking, exuberant, creative, romantic, whimsical, and embracing” – but just as importantly, I’d say, he was curious, generous and gentle. And I wasn’t at all surprised that he died trying to save his pups, Jelly Bean, Leo, and Baby Ruth.

May he rest in peace, and garden forever.

Jul
27
2016

Rethinking (and Raving About) Glads

Rethinking (and Raving About) Glads – www.OldHouseGardens.com
small-flowered ‘Atom’ and ‘Boone’

“How and why does a flower fall out of fashion?” asks Gardenista blogger Michelle Slatalla in what she calls the first of a new series, Rethinking Flowers, devoted to “old garden favorites that deserve a second chance.”

First up – gladiolus! Like many gardeners, Michelle had never grown glads before, but when we sent her a few of our small-flowered and unusual heirlooms (including ‘Atom’ and ‘Boone’, pictured here in her garden), she ended up seeing them in a whole new light.

Glads are “breathtaking,” she writes, and our graceful “heirloom varieties mingle well with other perennials.” In her California garden, for example, Michelle grows them among clumps of lavender whose cool tones perfectly complement the warmer colors of many glads.

For more – including evocative photos from Michelle’s garden and an account of an ultra high-society wedding in 1923 with the bride and her attendants “fairly staggering under the weight of gladiolus” – check out the whole wonderful post at Gardenista.com.

Apr
27
2016

Glad News: Big Honor for Little ‘Green Lace’

‘Green Lace’, 1961

Spritely little ‘Green Lace’ was elected recently to the Gladiolus Hall of Fame, one of the glad world’s highest honors. Introduced by Clark Pickell of Rochester, New York, this outstanding “soft green ruffled little glad” is “still vital today,” fifty-five years after its introduction in 1961.

‘Atom’, 1946

If you hurry you can still order ‘Green Lace’ for planting this spring, along with fellow Hall of Famer and customer-favorite ‘Atom’. (The two of them, by the way, look great together in bouquets.) Among the 112 other glads honored by the Hall since its founding in 1981, we’ve offered ‘Bluebird’, ‘Blue Smoke’, ‘Caribbean’, ‘Friendship’, ‘Isle of Capri’, ‘Lavanesque’, ‘Melodie’, ‘Peter Pears’, ‘Snow Princess’, and ‘Spic and Span’ – and we hope to offer them all again next year.

Apr
13
2016

The Astonishing Gardens (and Bulbs) of Alcatraz

The Astonishing Gardens (and Bulbs) of Alcatraz – www.oldhousegardens.com/Alcatraz

Like most people, I had no idea that flowers ever grew at The Rock – until 2009 when an order for some of our dahlias and glads arrived here from that infamous island in San Francisco Bay.

Alcatraz, I soon learned, has a long, complex history, and gardens have been a part of most of it. Some were public plantings tended by prisoners while others were the home gardens of the warden and guards who lived there with their families.

Last month I spent an afternoon walking Alcatraz with Dick Miner, a long-time volunteer who’s been helping to bring its gardens back to life after 40 years of abandonment. Dick talked about the herculean effort to clear decades of weeds and overgrowth and the excitement of rediscovering paths, retaining walls, and a surprising array of garden plants that survived amid the ruins.

“Bulbs were a favorite garden plant of the island’s residents,” Alcatraz’s director of gardens Shelagh Fritz wrote recently in Horticulture magazine. “Many bulbs originate from other Mediterranean regions and therefore find great success here – a happy coincidence since soldiers and guards simply brought their favorite garden plants with them to Alcatraz” including daffodils, freesia, Spanish bluebell, snowflake, and grape hyacinth. “When we cleared the overgrowth from the gardens, these bulbs came back to life after lying dormant for decades.”

Dahlias and glads appear in historic photos of Alcatraz, and Shelagh has ordered many of ours to replant there including ‘Clair de Lune’, ‘Old Gold’, and ‘Thomas Edison’ dahlias and Abyssinian, ‘Bibi’, ‘Dauntless’, ‘Fidelio’, ‘Spic and Span’, and ‘Starface’ glads.

For a look at these fascinating gardens, see Shelagh’s article, “A Hardened Garden.” To learn even more, go to AlcatrazGardens.org. And if you’re one of the 1.5 million people who will visit Alcatraz this year, don’t miss the docent-led tours of the gardens!

Jan
7
2016

Fragrant Glads: Why More Aren’t Like ‘Lucky Star’

Fragrant Glads: Why More Aren’t Like ‘Lucky Star’ – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Bill Seidl of Wisconsin emailed us a while ago looking for a fragrant glad from the 1950s. Although we couldn’t find it for him, he taught us something about why gladiolus fragrance is so elusive:

“From about 1957 through 1967,” Bill wrote, “I hybridized glads with fragrance as a goal. No progress. In 1968, for $200, I imported 20 bulbs of ‘Lucky Star’ from Joan Wright [its New Zealand breeder] and worked at fragrance from that angle. Still no improvement.

“Dr. Robert Griesbach [the famous breeder of lilies and daylilies] worked at it at the same time and gave up after a while. He realized before me what the trouble was: ‘Lucky Star’ has a genetic makeup of AaAa, where A stands for the fragrance gene from Abyssinian glads [which Joan Wright had already discovered were virtually impossible to cross with regular glads]. Unfortunately during meiosis the genes segregate uniformly rather than randomly, which means the pairings are always Aa, never AA or aa. So when you cross them with regular glads, which don’t have any fragrance, the resulting plants are always Aaaa – or in other words, there is always a DECLINE in fragrance.

“At age 83 I do not intend to start over with glads,” Bill added. “But in 1968 I also spent $200 to buy four peonies from Japan, the first intersectional hybrids by Toichi Itoh. That was a better investment. It inspired me to get into peony breeding. Now you can find me on the internet if you type my name and ‘peony’ into any search engine.”

As for ‘Lucky Star’, Bill says he still plants “six corms every year in a pot atop a five-gallon pail, which makes for easy watering,” and he still enjoys its fragrance, which he pointed out is “best sniffed toward evening.” To sniff it yourself, order ‘Lucky Star’ now for spring planting!

Apr
21
2015

Planting Tip: Glads
Bloom Facing the Most Sunlight, But . . .

Planting Tip: Glads Bloom Facing the Most Sunlight, But . . .

We love the way glads add vertical exclamation points of color to the summer garden. To enjoy them the most, though, it pays to site them carefully, as explained in the NAGC’s journal Glad World:

“Glads, like daffodils, tend to face the direction from which they receive the longest period of direct sunlight. While you might expect this to be south, early morning or late afternoon shade from nearby trees or buildings might cause those glads so shaded to face due east or west, or southeast or southwest, depending upon how the shade pattern moves with the sun during the day. . . . Facing is an important consideration since you would like to view the front of the spike from whatever vantage point you usually view the bed, border, or pot.”

Keep that in mind when deciding where to plant your glads, but don’t worry – you can get your glads to bloom facing any direction you want if you (a) plant them in a pot (say, in your vegetable garden) and then (b) when the first florets open, move the pot into your flower garden or onto your front steps and turn it any way you like. To try this trick yourself, why not order a few glads – such as the graceful, fragrant Abyssinian glad or our customers’ favorite ‘Atom’ – for spring-planting?

Jan
7
2015

Thousands of Glads Bloom Forever in 1921 Saginaw

Thousands of Glads Bloom Forever in 1921 Saginaw – www.OldHouseGardens.com
Display by nurseryman P. Vos with mood lighting and wicker furniture.

Have you ever seen a flower show devoted entirely to gladiolus? Well, now you can, thanks to a “virtual exhibit” by the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History.

Four photographs at the Michigan museum’s website offer glimpses of a 1921 show sponsored by the Saginaw Woman’s Club, with thousands of glads displayed in wicker baskets and milk bottles. The show included big displays by commercial growers such as the leading glad hybridizer of the era A.E. Kunderd (“Originator of the Ruffled Gladiolus”), Fred Baumgras, and P. Vos (with mood lighting and what looks like wisteria dangling from the ceiling), as well as a room full of glads grown by local amateurs.

The images are part of a larger online exhibit of garden photos by a 1920s club member. Most of the photos show gardens in Saginaw, including a spectacular formal garden by Charles Platt that’s been preserved by the Saginaw Art Museum, but there are also shots of the Michigan gardens of chemical magnate Herbert Dow and popular garden writer Mrs. Francis King. Paging through the nearly 100 photos provides viewers today with an introduction to some of the defining features of early 20th-century gardens – birdbaths, sundials, benches, gates, trellises, pergolas, and summer houses – as well as many of the era’s most popular plants – peonies, iris, phlox, golden glow (Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Hortensia’), Shasta daisies, and, of course, gladiolus.

new ruffled glads, Kunderd display
glads in milk bottles, Baumgras display
May
12
2014

Another Glad Convert:
From Childhood Trauma to Summer Smiles

Another Glad Convert: From Childhood Trauma to Summer Smiles – www.OldHouseGardens.com
pint-sized ‘Atom’

“In my garden? No way.” That’s what our good customer Susan Stauber of Beacon, NY, had to say about glads — until she took a chance on our small-flowered, best-selling ‘Atom’. She writes:

“I grew up in a part of the country where the huge hybrid gladiolus were grown in fields. Great for funeral arrangements and corporate office lobbies, but in my garden? No way.

“But there was something tantalizing about those little ‘Atom’ glads of yours. So I bought a few. And when they bloomed — wow! They made me chuckle every time I saw them.

“So last year, I bought a few more ‘Atom’ and some ‘Lucky Star’. This time I planted them in groups here and there, and I planted the groups at different times so I was smiling at blooms all summer long. (I even dug and stored them successfully last fall.)

“I never could have predicted that I’d be ordering more gladiolus for this year, but I am – ‘Boone’ and ‘Starface’. I can’t wait for the ground to finally defrost so I can plant them. It is possible to recover from childhood traumas.

“P.S. Everyone who walks by wants to know what those wonderful red flowers are. They can’t believe they’re gladiolus!”

‘Boone’
‘Starface’
‘Lucky Star’
Mar
7
2014

Bulbs in Pots: Our New Page
of Tips for Tuberoses, Rain Lilies, and More

Bulbs in Pots: Our New Page of Tips for Tuberoses, Rain Lilies, and More – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Every summer we decorate our front porch with pots of fragrant tuberoses and little pink rain lilies, while out in the back yard we tuck pots of glads in among the perennials to provide exclamation points of color.

You can, too! Most spring-planted bulbs are easy to grow in containers, and you’ll find everything you need to know at our newly expanded “Bulbs in Pots” page.

Read it now and get ready for a summer filled with beauty, fragrance, and fun.

Aug
14
2013

Sickly Glads?
The Culprit May be Almost Invisible Thrips

Sickly Glads? The Culprit May be Almost Invisible Thrips &ndsah; www.OldHouseGardens.com

Glads are one of the easiest bulbs to grow, and they last wonderfully long in a vase. Unfortunately thrips are an almost microscopic pest that can attack them, sucking the life out of their leaves and buds.

If your glads have brown or silvery streaks on their leaves, if the flowers are mottled with white, or if their buds fail to open, there’s a good chance thrips are the problem.

To learn more, check out our “Protecting Your Glads from Thrips.”

May
7
2013

Glads for Free: Tips for Growing
Your Tiny Cormlets into Big Fat Corms

Glads for Free – Tips for Growing Your Tiny Cormlets into Big Fat Corms – www.OldHouseGardens.com

If you dug and stored your gladiolus last fall, you probably found lots of tiny cormlets – aka cormels – clustered around their bases. Plant those this spring and before long you’ll have hundreds of glads for free. Cliff Hartline in the NAGC’s Glad World offers these expert tips:

“Generally speaking, any cormel that falls thru a 1/8-inch screen does not produce well. . . . I only plant cormels the size of a pencil eraser or larger. I pass all my cormels over a 1/4-inch screen and plant those that do not fall through. . . . The larger ones will definitely give you a larger corm to harvest and . . . if they are planted early, they will often bloom in September. . . .

“One year after I finished digging my large corms about September 20, I had the time to dig my glads from cormels. After pulling a few out of the ground, I saw that the corms were the size of a quarter or smaller. I decided to foliar feed them, and I applied fungicide at the same time.

Glads for Free – Tips for Growing Your Tiny Cormlets into Big Fat Corms – www.OldHouseGardens.com

We had a frost October 15 so I dug them immediately after that. Many of the corms were jumbos, most were large, and very few were smaller. I would encourage people to wait until frost to dig cormel stock, and foliar feed late in the year. . . . The September feeding seemed to rejuvenate the growth and the fungicide kept the foliage healthy.”

We’ll remind you that cormlets have nearly impenetrable outer shells and they’ll sprout much better if you either nick or gently crack these or simply dissolve them by soaking in full-strength household bleach for a few hours immediately before planting.

Plant cormlets in full sun, 1-2 inches deep and 1-2 inches apart, depending on size. Keep the soil moist but not soggy until grass-like foliage emerges and, for optimal growth, throughout the summer.

Good luck, have fun, and let us know how they do for you!

Aug
9
2012

‘Boone’ Rocks Amy’s Garden
and the Cover of Fine Gardening

‘Boone’ Rocks Amy’s Garden – and the Cover of <i>Fine Gardening</i> – www.OldHouseGardens.com
Amy’s ‘Boone’ – one is enough!

A huge bouquet of ‘Boone’ glads from our micro-farms was gracing our office work-table when an email arrived reminding us that even one ‘Boone’ can be a thrill.

“I just wanted to pass along a photo of my lovely ‘Boone’ gladiolus,” our good customer Amy Darnell of Columbia, Missouri, wrote. “I am so, so glad I bought it!”

Then the very next day the October issue of one of our favorite magazines, Fine Gardening, arrived with a big beautiful clump of ‘Boone’ on the cover! At first we didn’t recognize it because it looks vivid orange in the photo rather than the soft apricot it is in our gardens, but we know how hard it is to get flower colors just right.

Although the accompanying article says it’s hardy in zones 8-10 only and will probably need staking – which is usually true of mainstream glads – ‘Boone’ is a hardy perennial here in our zone-6a gardens, and we never stake it.

So now are you ready to grab a few for your own garden? As Amy says, you’ll be so, so glad you did!

‘Boone’ Rocks Amy’s Garden – and the Cover of <i>Fine Gardening</i> – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Boone’s cousin ‘Carolina Primrose’ (here in our micro-farms) is also zone-6 hardy and never needs staking.
‘Boone’ Rocks Amy’s Garden – and the Cover of <i>Fine Gardening</i> – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Boone’ glows on the cover
of Fine Gardening, Oct. 2012.
Feb
4
2011

Garden Artist Embraces Heirloom Glads

Garden Artist Embraces Heirloom Glads – www.OldHouseGardens.com
‘Spic and Span’, sadly now “commercially extinct”

Like most artists, Atlanta-area garden designer Ryan Gainey has a keen eye for beauty and a creative spirit that won’t be bound by convention. He even likes gladiolus! In fact, he recently wrote a whole article about them for Flower magazine.

As he explains, “my great-grandmothers and my Aunt Marie grew gladiolus” and he did too when he started gardening in the 1960s. ‘Spic and Span’ was an early favorite, and when 40 years later he found it in our catalog, he was “swept away by a wave of nostalgia.”

Since then he’s added many other heirloom varieties to his garden, including the rare parrot glad, an old Southern form of G. dalenii — and every now and then he calls us with a tip about an old glad he found somewhere that he thinks we ought to add to our catalog. (Thanks, Ryan!)

Aug
25
2010

How Winter-Hardy Are Your Glads?
Our Readers Report

How Winter-Hardy Are <i>Your</i> Glads? Our Readers Report – www.OldHouseGardens.com

Although most experts say gladiolus won’t survive winters colder than zone 8, our customers kept telling us theirs were returning like perennials in zones 7, 6, and even 5.

So we asked our readers, “Have your regular glads survived zone-6 or colder winters? And what do you think made that possible?”

Many replied (thanks!), and now you can read what they said along with our conclusions at oldhousegardens.com/HardyGlads.

Although warmer, shorter winters are probably the biggest reason why so many glads are surviving in colder zones, other important factors seem to include:

reliable snow cover,

winter mulch,

deep planting,

good drainage,

micro-climates,

plenty of sun, and

the time-tested vigor of heirlooms.

To add your two-cents to the discussion, email help@oldhousegardens.com. And if you’d like to experiment with glads as perennials in your own garden, we suggest starting with the tough little one that our readers recommended the most: ‘Atom’.

Jan
16
2009

No Need to Buy a Monet, Just Garden Like Him!

No Need to Buy a Monet, Just Garden Like Him! – www.OldHouseGardens.com

For the last twenty years of his life, Monet painted only one subject: his gardens in Giverny.

Many bulbs played a leading role there, and it seems his taste for bulbs was shaped, at least in part, by financial difficulties in his early years.

In Monet: The Gardener (2002), Sidney Eddison writes: “Today, water lilies continue to float on the pond at Giverny. In May, irises in every imaginable shade of blue and violet bloom in their long, narrow beds; in June, roses smother the metal arches along the front walk. By midsummer, gladioli stand tall among the nasturtiums, which have begun their headlong rush toward the middle of the path. And in the fall, dahlias lavish their rich colors on the beds.”

In the same book, Robert Gordon writes of Monet’s early career: “Given his precarious finances and the temporary nature of his abodes, many of the plants he chose were annuals ... or corms, such as gladiolus, which can be dug up in the fall and saved from year to year.

“At Argenteuil, Monet planted gladiolus corms by the hundreds. In a painting simply titled Gladioli of 1876, ... [Monet’s wife] Camille ... gazes wistfully at cheerful ranks of pink, red, and bicolor flowers.... Two years later, in a work depicting Monet’s new garden at Vetheuil, gladioli appear again, but this time growing in decorative blue-and-white ceramic containers — a reminder of the impermanent nature of these early gardens. The same containers ultimately found a home at Giverny.”

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