Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Parrot Glad

gladiolus-dalenii-flower-640

 

This Parrot Glad seems to be shouting with joy.  "Yes, I'm really hardy—and I'm very much into orange and lime green!"  How eager this flower is, with the pistils pressed against the top of the flower like the vibrating uvula of a cartoon character in full-throated shout.

 

And there's plenty to shout about.  This glad—and all of its G. x gandavensis cousins—is hardy, truly and easily, right up to Boston.  (See "Culture" and "How to handle it" below).  Florist-type glads are only hardy if your climate is like San Diego's.

 

Florist glads, though, are so cheap (in all senses) that they need to be grown with a sense of retro-chic irony if you're not to seem hopelessly Dame Edna.  But I find that the plants don't seem to communicate that irony on their own, so I'm always working on sidling up to garden visitors to mutter that, ho ho, yes, I'm growing florist glads, and aren't they a tacky wonder.  But it's too much chat to have to trot out, and anyway, not every visitor is always in ear-shot.  (Lucky for them, honestly.)  So my florist glads have (for the moment) fallen by the wayside.

 

Hardy glads, though, pass the taste test in the negative.  They're not florist glads:  The flowers are smaller and in softer colors; florist-glad fans would walk right by.  But also, they're hardy, so you can grow them in a more casual array with other hardy plants, popping up here and there, instead of being planted in pure-glad patches like you must with the florist glads, so that you can (ugh) stake them each and all.

 

gladiolus-dalenii-side-640

 

I also enjoy hardy glads' uncompromising face-forward display.  Unlike florist glads, hardy glads' lower petals aren't so large that they wave to you even if you look at the flower from the side.  Hardy glad flowers are still plenty colorful on the outside, and are happy to have you notice.  But they have nothing to say to you, uvula wagging all the while, unless you're facing them head-on. 

 

 

Here's how to grow this subtle (for a glad) beauty:

Latin Name

Gladiolus dalenii

Common Name

Parrot Gladiolus

Family

Iridaceae, the Iris family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous surprisingly-hardy flowering perennial, grown from a corm.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 9.

Habit

Strictly upright, with typical narrow spear-like gladiolus foliage and flower spikes.

Rate of Growth

Fast when in congenial surroundings.

Size in ten years

Under ideal hot-Summer and good-drainge-in-Winter conditions, clump a foot or more across, and, in bloom, three to five feet tall.

Texture

In foliage, like any other iris or gladiolus: the vertical energy of the foliage and flowers is "activated" only in juxtaposition with mounding and/or fern-leaved neighbors.

Grown for

the surprising hardiness.  Because the glads of the cut-flower trade are as tender as dahlias, the existence of glads that are solidly hardy (when you do the right things) to Boston is a pleasant surprise, indeed.

 

the flowers, which have nothing of the omnipresence and flash of the cut-flower glads, because they're much smaller and—at least by comparison with the vivid glads you can buy at the supermarket—quieter in coloring.  That said, these are still bright and showy blooms, with (for me) a lime-green heavily spotted with orange except at the throat, which is solid lime-green.  On-line pictures and descriptions, though, show the flowers as vermilion.  Either way, this is a red-friendly flower, so keep it far away from pink.   

 

the ease of culture, and the resultant longevity of the clumps.

Flowering season

Mid-Summer:  The middle of July here in Rhode Island.

Culture

Almost any soil, from quite sandy and lean to rich—as long as the Winter drainage is excellent.  Full sun.

How to handle it

Because Winter drainage is so important for hardiness, plant hardy glads only on slopes, never on level ground.  Even a slope of a few inches is good enough.  

 

Plant the corms—they aren't true bulbs, but never mind why—in the early Fall, a good five or six inches deep; the depth helps the tall foliage and flower stems hold themselves vertically.  It also helps insulate the corms from the Winter weather to come.  Mulch heavily the first Winter, even so.  Because the plants are slow to emerge in the Spring, put a discrete marker stake or flag alongside so you don't just chop through the corms in May in a frenzy of ad hoc warm-weather annual planting. 

 

Unless you're collecting the seed, cut off the flower stems when the flowers fade, but let the foliage last as long as it wants through the season.  You can cut off the stems a couple of inches above ground-level in the Fall after they're completely browned by frost.  Or you can wait to Spring to do this; I like this latter strategy, because it reminds me yet again that—wait a minute—there IS something planted in that patch of ground after all.

 

Gladiolus foliage will never win prizes for startling beauty, so this is a plant where the flowers come first.  Pair these perennials with lower and contrastingly moundy growers at the front, so the glad foliage can erupt upward through them with exciting vigor.  Possible "moundies" for the full-sun, well-drained life that the glads require would include hardy euphorbias, asclepias, and artemisias.

Downsides

This is a one-season plant, true—and it's all about the flowers, without much foliar interest before or after the flowering is through. 

 

In my experience, disease and pest-free. 

Variants

There's a handful of similarly hardy glads out there, mostly hybrids of G. gandavensis, to which I find I'm particularly susceptible one and all.  The flowers can be clear yellow, salmon-pink, apricot, or red.  G. byzantinus is half the size of these others, but just as hardy, and with flowers of a shameless magenta.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By seed, as well as by digging up your clump the moment it's gone dormant for the season, which could be in late Summer, long before frost, separating the daughter corms from the mother clump, and replanting everyone wherever you choose.

Native habitat

South Africa. 

 
 
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