Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Flowers: Gladiolus

Garden at Sainte Adresse -Claude Monet 1867

It is a common sight around here to see a small wooden hut at the end of an Old Order Mennonite farm lane with fresh fruit and vegetables for sale. Sometimes there is just a pail of flowers and no attendant, requiring the purchaser to go up to the house to pay. In the last couple of weeks, gladiolus has been the most common flower available.

These stiff, formal flowers are often associated with funeral arrangements. I planted them one year and found they were too heavy for their stalks and had to be staked. In our climate, the corms must be removed from the ground in the fall and hung to dry. I don't bother with them now in my garden.

Almost all gladioli are native to sub-Sahara Africa. They were introduced to gardens in Europe and North America in the early 1800's. Claude Monet was apparently fond of them and featured them in the above painting. One variety, gladiolus primulinus, was discovered in 1890 on the banks of Victoria Falls, in what was then Rhodesia. The upper petal was hooded in order to keep the pollen bearing stamens dry in the mist from the waterfall. It became known as the Maid of the Mist and is available from mail order nurseries. The picture on the left of this flower is from a website called The African Garden.

Gladiolus is the representative flower for the month of August. I bought three stalks last weekend and have enjoyed the small arrangement all week. They have been cut shorter each day as the lower flowers wither on the stem. Today is the last day of August, and they will be ready for the compost heap by tomorrow. It is hard to believe September is almost here. Schools open next week in Canada and summer comes to an abrupt end. The gladiolus is our last summer garden flower.

Hope every one has a safe and enjoyable long weekend!


  1. Very pretty, Ruth - including the monet print!

    When I lived in DE, a retired couple lived next door. She loved gladiolus so much that she lined her side of the fence with bunches of them. They stood straight and tall with a little help of low evergreens. Even though she gave me the opportunity to cut some of them, I didn't. They were too beautiful to cut - and, I considered them mine :o)

  2. Glads are one kind of flower I have never tried to grow.
    I didn't realize they were originally from sub-Saharan Africa.
    I love the word origin of gladiolus--derivative of Latin gladius (meaning sword).

  3. Hi Ruth,
    I like gladiolus too, but like you I've never planted them in the garden because I know I'd never get the bulbs dug up in time for winter. I especially like that they come in so many different colors and the blooms last so long.

  4. My mom has always hated them for the "funeral flower" reason, but I think they are quite pretty.

  5. Mary- Thanks. It is nice when you can enjoy flowers and not do the work. They are too much of a bother for me to grow them in my garden.

    KGMom- Gladiolus- gladiator. Of course. I like the looks of the wild glads in Southern Africa. They are smaller and more interesting.

    RuthieJ- I only plant bulbs that can stay in the ground in the winter. I admire those who fuss with glads and tuberous begonias.

    Jayne- They are not my favourite flower either, but they look nice in buckets at the market and in the neat gardens of Mennonite farms.

  6. Nice photos!-I wish mine would always enlarge.

  7. Very interesting, Ruth. It's nice to come here and learn facts I'd not have otherwise discovered.

    I always think of my mother when I see Glads. She made lovely flower arrangements with them.

    Yes - summer went so fast and it's off to the compost pile with it . . .:0)

  8. Larry- I had no problems with Blogger photos after I switched to Firefox for my browser.

    Cathy- Glads are an elegant flower. You mom was likely an elegant lady.


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