Don’t leave glads out of your garden plans for this summer. One season of growing them will let you understand why gladiolus are a top favorite with so many people.
The gladiolus isn’t a one-purpose flower. Its endless variety of colors can satisfy any personal taste or color scheme. It’s ideal for garden planting among other flowers. On the other hand, it’s just the thing for men who want to grow flowers only for cutting or bragging about because glads can be planted in rows in any extra bit of space.
If you’re a beginner. you may become bewildered -trying to decide which varieties to plant. There are more than 2,000 name varieties-and more coming each year. Undoubtedly there are more new varieties of glads introduced each year than of perhaps any other flower. Nearly 8,000 varieties have been introduced during the last hundred years. It’s a sight to see the thousands of acres of them in Texas, Florida, Alabama, and other southern states, grown to ship to commercial florists in the northern states during the winter months.
Both for exhibition and for commercial purposes, gladiolus varieties are classified into three general types. These are: Exhibition, Large Decorative, and Small Decorative. The Exhibition type includes the largest varieties whose size and number of flowers are the most important features. The Large Decorative type contains those with size ranging from 3 inches across the smallest flower to 6 and 7 inches across the largest The Small Decorative type contains varieties 3 inches across as a maximum and range down to the tiny miniature gladiolus, some of which are no more than 1/2 to 3/4 inch across. Other than in size, these miniatures are very like the larger varieties.
The best plan for the beginner is to make his selections on the basis of color from among the show winners of former years.
Buying your bulbs
Most catalogs and seed stores offer gladiolus bulbs in several sizes. No. 1, large; No. 2, medium; and No. 3, small all will produce flowers. Anything smaller than No. 3 will be less than an inch in diameter and can’t be depended on to bloom. Anything over an inch in diameter will be almost certain to bloom, and the bigger the bulb the better the flowers More important than bulb size is gladiolus’ freedom from disease. Buy from a reputable nurseryman to be safe. (Gladiolus bulbs are also called “corms,” which is their correct botanical classification. Common usage makes it all right for you to call them bulbs. The corm is a shortened and thickened section of the stem that appears at the base of the plant. It is solid and covered with dry husks-really the bases of old leaves. They’re called tunics. On the corm are buds for each layer of leaves. Except for production of new varieties, gladiolus are not cultivated from seed. They do not come true.)
Soil and sun
Gladiolus require much the same growing condition as most vegetables and garden flowers. They’ll do well in almost any part of the United States. They like lots of sun, and a fertile, well-drained soil, Although they can be grown successfully in almost any type of soil, you’ll get best results in sandy loam. They don’t like to compete with tree and shrub roots, nor do they grow there best crowded up against a foundation. If you plant in such places, be sure to supply extra food and water. To prevent diseases borne in soil, plant the corms in a new location each year when space permits. Though in the South the corms may not winterkill, it does reduce the danger of mixing varieties to plant them in a new location.
Before planting, dig complete plant food into the bed, about 4 pounds for each 100 feet of row. Plant food used later in the summer should be watered in immediately after applying to let it get to the roots at once. Don’t use raw manure since it may spread infection if it touches the bulbs.
If you’re willing to spend money each spring for new bulbs, you won’t have to use plant food. A large bulb contains enough reserve food to produce good flowers. Feeding insures that there will be bulbs large enough to bloom next year.
How to plant
Plant glads as early in the spring as the soil is fit to work. Set bulbs 6 inches deep in light soil, 4 inches deep if soil is heavy. Fill the hole only half full when making the first spring planting to let bulbs get extra warmth from the sun, and fill rest of hole after growth starts. Large bulbs should be about 7 inches apart. The blooming season can be stretched by making succession plantings, by planting bulbs of several sizes, and by using varieties which take different lengths of time to mature.
Care after planting
Start shallow hoeing when first leaves come through the ground. Glads suffer when forced to compete with weeds. Eliminate weeds early in the season. The new corn and the new roots are formed on top of the old one during the growing season; deep cultivation too near the roots breaks off the new roots and slows up growth.
The worst insect enemy is the gladiolus thrip, a very tiny, black, winged insect It sucks the juice from the plant, and leaves a silvery appearance at first and then causing them to turn brown. Thrips also cause deformed flowers and prevent man, flower spikes from opening at all.
Thrips on bulbs should be killed before planting. In the garden, start dusting or spraying with Fungicide when leaves are six inches tall. Apply once a week (oftener if rain comes) right through flowering time.
Water is very important-in fact, it’s usually the greatest single factor in success full gladiolus growing. Rain seldom supplies enough moisture so make sure the bed get an inch of water every week. Start watering when there are five leaves on the plants
Cutting the flowers
Cut the flower spikes ordinarily when only one or two flowers are open. The rest will open in water indoors. Cut spikes of cleanly and at a slant. Put the spikes in water at once. Laying them down for any length of time will make the tips take on permanent curve.
Leave at least five leaves on the plant since it must continue growth to mature the bulbs for next year.
Keep weeds under control even after the blooming period is over. However, you can lei up on watering except in very dry weather Thrip control can also be relaxed unless there is serious infestation.
Digging time for the bulbs depends on the planting date. Lift them, a spading fork will do, when growth has stopped but before foliage turns brown, usually 4 to 6 weeks after blooming. In the North, where corms are tender, dig them before freezing weather comes. Cut off tops just above the corm, and store in an open box to let them cure for a month. You can make your own shallow screen-bottom tray containers for storing them; the screen allows circulation of air through the corms. Deep containers like bushel baskets keep them too hot and confined, and they aren’t recommended. After the corms have cured, clean them by removing the dried up roots at the base of the new corm, and break off the dried old corm. Leave the husks on the new one unless there is danger of thrip infestation.
The following list of gladiolus varieties gives the beginner a starting point and saves a good deal of guesswork. All of the varieties named are show winners of the past few years and are now available in sufficient quantities to make them inexpensive.
White-Myrna, Snow Princess
White with red throat-Margaret Beaton
Cream-Leading Lady, Lady Jane, White Gold
Cream and rose-Coronna
Yellow-Golden State, Mrs. Bloomington, Crinklecrearn
Yellow and red-Sir Galahad, Spotlight
Salmon-Glarnis, Picardy, Jeanie, First Lady,
Scarlet-Algonquin, Valeria, Beacon, Blaze
Pink-Big Top, Ethel Cave-Cole
Red-Red Charm, Stoplight
Red-black-Black Opal, Black Panther)
Lavender-Elizabeth the Queen
Purple-King Lear, Purple Supreme
Violet-Abu Hassan, Blue Beauty
Smoky-Oklahoma, High Finance, Tunias Mahomet
Brown velvet-Vagabond Prince