Ahhhh Summertime: just the mention of the word summons fireflies dancing, crickets chirping, the ice cream truck singing, children playing and beautiful flower’s perfuming the air. Long afternoons beckon us to get outside. Nature is abuzz.
If ever there was a season to rejoice – this is it.
For those of us who have summer perennials, this is also the time to sit back and watch the parade begin: lilies, dahlias, gladiolus and canna – to name a few. These yearly repeaters emerge from the ground with such amazing shapes and colors, they are well worth the extra you pay for them.
What I used to think of as a “grandma” or old-fashioned flower, gladiolus have become one of my favorites. Such a low maintenance flower and quite affordable, these showy flowers grow on tall spikes that open up sequentially. Accept for a few stakes here and there, this wonderful cut flower asks little of its owner while offering an impressive splash to the back of any sunny border.
Also called ‘sword lily,’ glads have been said to “pierce the heart with love”. I can see why; while many tall flowers lean over with their weight, gladioli stay erect in the garden and in the vase, too, due to their stout stalks.
If you have a spot with lots of sun and good drainage, it’s not too late to plant a few. Ideally, you should set the corms in the garden in the spring after the last frost and plant additional glads at 2-week intervals to extend the “parade” so to speak. (It’s recommended to stop planting by mid-June because the corms take about 90 days to establish, bloom and re-energize for the next season – but with our warmer weather, I think you could probably get away with trying a few.)
The bulbs I have established here in Virginia are just starting to bloom this week. When I see the bright orange-red color, I am reminded of the Psalmist’s enthusiasm. He didn’t just say to rejoice today – which would be encouragement enough – he said rejoice and be glad. Just like the sword on this flower, the next bloom is getting started before the first has time to fully open. Likewise, there should be a daily wave to our joy, a symphony to our gratefulness. We’re alive - and while weeds may be peeking around the corner - THIS is the day, the moment, the season we have and hold.
Every day is fleeting, just as the flower, so laugh today and love today and plant today.
Maybe stop by the nursery and see if they have the fun, new dwarf variety gladiolus that have been recently come out on the market. ‘Glammer Glads’ are perfect as cut flowers and in containers, as they don’t need as much staking.
Or maybe cut one of your swords and use it in an arrangement. It’s best to harvest the flowers during early morning or evening hours when they are at their freshest. Use a sharp knife and cut on the diagonal when flower spikes have 1 to 3 florets are open. (The remaining flowers will continue to open in water.) Take care to leave at least 4 to 6 leaves on the plant to mature and nourish the corm that is still growing beneath the soil.
Florist’s recommend you remove the lower leaves and place the flowers in a dark, cool area for several hours before exposing them to light and arranging and displaying them.
The gladiola is a tender perennial corm, also called a bulbo-tuber, that cannot withstand freezing. In Virginia I leave them in year-round, but in zones above 7 they must be dug out and stored after the first killing frost because with a flower this beautiful you’ll want to be GLAD year after year.
No maybe about it: “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24