Two decades ago, I planted several frost-tender gladiolus corms (tiny bulbs). Then, to my surprise, instead of the bulbs freezing and perishing during winter, they sprouted and bloomed the following spring. They've sprouted and bloomed every summer since.
Why? The corms were planted against a south-facing wall.
There, evidently, the ground doesn't freeze deep enough to kill them.
In any case, as our gladioli begin to bloom this season in shades of red, yellow, orange and white, I'm noticing colors that I hadn't anticipated. The plants have crossbred as they've "naturalized" (multiplied and spread).
Members of the iris family of plants, gladioli (Gladiolus hortulanus) are native to the Near East, South Africa and Europe.
Depending upon their variety, they flower from the bottom to the top on spikes that are from 1 foot to 5 feet tall. Leaves are green, long, slender and sword-shaped. In fact, gladiolus actually means little sword in Latin.
Maybe, I'll give our new-colored gladioli swashbuckling names, such as Capt. Jack Sparrow.
Plant gladioli, in full sun and in soil that drains freely, 6 inches apart and 6 inches deep. But don't plant them until the danger from Jack Frost has passed.
Potted gladioli, including those in bloom, can be planted whenever the soil is workable — not too dry or too wet.
During fall, unearth the corms and let them dry for a few weeks before removing their leaves and placing them in a dark, cool and dry place until it's time to plant them in the spring. If this seems like a little too much work, try leaving a few undisturbed corms in the ground. The results may surprise you.
In the meantime, I'm glad I grow gladioli. Not only do they look great in the garden and in cut-flower displays, their flower petals taste great, too.
This week in the garden
Are you ready to do battle with Japanese beetles? The last few years, we've been lucky, as this menacing insect hasn't been seen in great numbers. Yet, this hasn't stopped me from stocking up on an insecticide called Sevin. It has been on the market for decades. It's comparatively safe to apply and works well at controlling Japanese beetles when used as directed.
Lou Boulmetis is a certified master gardener who lives in Littlestown, Pa. Call him at 1-888-727-4287 or email email@example.com.