GLADIOLI give an exotic, intriguing effect to any garden in which they are planted. The colour range of their flowers, which vary considerably in form and size, is exceptionally wide and brilliant. They are among the easiest flowers to grow and are useful both for garden decoration and for cutting.
have been cultivated abroad since the days of Ancient Greece and were introduced into the British Isles in 1596. In the wild state about 150 species have been classified, mostly from Africa, but some from Western Asia and Europe. Probably only a few appear in the ancestry of the modern cultivated types, which bear little resemblance to any of the wild species and whose development is a tribute to the skill of plant breeders.
(The measurements which follow are a rough guide only, because the height of the various types of gladiolus and the size of their florets vary considerably, not only among the different varieties of each type, but according to growing conditions.)
The large-flowered type is the most popular. It bears large flowers in the autumn which measure from 4 to 6 in. across, and are arranged closely and symmetrically on long, strong stems, 3 to 5 ft. high.
The primulinus hybrids, which bloom in the autumn and are popular for indoor decoration, originated by hybridizing large-flowered varieties with the species primulinus found near the Victoria Falls on the Zambesi River in 1902. They are more light and dainty in appearance than the large-flowered, and the individual florets are more widely spaced on thinner stems. One characteristic is the hooding of the top petal of each floret. They grow from 2-½ to 3-½ ft. high. The blooms vary considerably in size, but are usually 2 to 3-½ in. across.
This type of gladiolus, which blooms in the autumn, is not as small as its name implies. The florets are 2-½ to 3 in. across and the stems grow to a height of 2-½ to 3-½ ft., so that, although the average size of the florets is less than half that of the large-flowered, the difference in the height and the width of the stems is not so marked. Many of the miniature varieties have attractively frilled or ruffled petals.
The butterfly type can be considered as a subdivision of the miniature, although the flowers, which bloom in the autumn, are usually a little larger, being 3 to 4 in. across. The height of the stem varies from 2-½ to 4 ft. Their main characteristics are their striking and most attractive throat markings and their beautiful colour combinations. Like the large-flowered and miniature types their florets open wide and are spaced regularly and closely on the stems.
The face-ups are quaint rather than beautiful, flower in the autumn and are useful for decoration. Their florets are 2 to 2-½ in. across, and instead of facing to the side they face upward on comparatively dwarf stems, usually 2 to 3 ft. high.
COLVILLEI (EARLY FLOWERING)
The colvillei, and a few distinct types which have been developed from them, flower in spring. Their stems grow from 2 to 2-½ ft. high, and they bear small star-shaped florets, 2 to 2-½ in. across. They are popular with market growers for forcing under glass.
Gladioli are perennial plants, and while none of the types mentioned are hardy, some species, such as, can be left undisturbed in the same position for years. The susceptibility of to frost is comparable to that of or , which means that they are caught by the first frost. They can be propagated from seeds, corms or small cormlets (often called bulblets).