Jill lives in a village in Bristol that has had a flower show for the last 82 years. She has exhibited begonias and sweet peas , then the villagers decided to compete with one another and exhibit gladioli. Jill and her husband then decided to buy the Great Western business which was for sale so started growing and selling Gladioli. The name Gladioli comes from the latin meaning sword shaped. We were then shown pictures of South African species that grow in the wild, no bigger than 18” tall and flower February to March. Professor Barnard created many hybrids using Tristis as a base for cross pollination. It is unusual in that it has a very strong overpowering scent.
One type of gladiolus Cardinalis actually grows on a shelf behind waterfalls but has a hood to protect the pollen from getting wet. It is exceptionally beautiful. We then looked at the mediterranean species these are much taller and hardier. The Gladiolus Gandavensis/ Brenchley is thought to be the original plant that all our gladioli were originally bred from. hey were grown in Hestercombe Garden by Gertrude Jekyll but got lost over time although one was found 12 years ago and sent to Hestercombe but unfortunately it does not reproduce easily so a replacement had to be used.
An exceptionally beautiful Flower is Papilio Ruby not so blowsy as some, also Nanus, Colvillii and the charm hybrids, all beautiful in there own right but more delicate than the usual form. Jill acquires her stock from Holland as she buys new varieties every year and they have ideal free draining soil in Holland. Corms that have been kept can be washed off with Jeyes Fluid to prevent disease but all diseased or damaged corms must be destroyed. Gladioli produce many cormlets which can be grown on if you have the patience but the larger the corm the better the flower particularly if you are thinking about showing. Before planting peel off dry outer skin and reduce shoots to one central shoot, they can be dusted with Flowers of Sulphur and left to shoot for 3 weeks by placing on dry sand.
Corms should be planted 4 x their depth so about 4 ins down, this helps to anchor them into the ground and they will need staking. It is impossible to calculate exactly when they will flower so best to stagger planting. When showing all flowers need to face in the same direction, cotton wool can be used in between the buds to avoid getting pollen on the flowers, there should be no gaps between the flowers. Diseases possible are Botrytis, slugs and snails and thrips which can cause virus disease so flowers must be destroyed. For exhibition purposes Gladiolus are given 3 numbers and these denote different classifications according to the size of the blooms, the colour and shade.