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!