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Gladiolus, a Nineteenth Century Introduction

What I like about gladioli is that they are tall and showy.

Brent Elliott writes about them in his book Flora: An Illustrated History of the Garden Flower.

He says, “The first South African gladioli were introduced into England by the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

Gladioli bloom during the summer for us here in the Northeast and die down in the fall when the cold weather approaches.

They grow from a corm or bulb which you plant around the same time as dahlias.

Before winter sets in, you need to dig up the corm and store it til the followng spring.

Vick on Gladioli

In the late nineteenth century in Rochester, New York seed company owner James Vick (1818-1882) sold more than one hundred varieties of gladioli.

In 1878 he wrote, “The Gladiolus is one of the most beautiful, most easily cultivated, and altogether the most satisfactory of our Summer-flowering Bulbs.”

Vick’s Illustrated Monthly, 1878. [Image thanks to Albion Prints]

Vick compared the gladiolus to other flowers in the garden.

He said, “Perhaps no other flower presents so gorgeous a display of brilliant colors in the garden and on exhibition tables, or at extensive floral decorations, as the Gladiolus.”

Vick admitted the French were providing many varieites of the gladiolus but American gardeners grew them with great success.

He wrote, “There is no country in the world, we think, where the Gladiolus thrives as it does in America.

“It is subject here to no disease, which is not the case in Europe – and to plant a bulb is to insure a good spike of flowers.”

A Customor Wrote Vick a Letter

Vick often received letters from his customers.

One such correspondent from Texas wrote Vick about the gladioli he had planted.

He said, “Mr. Vick, my gladiolus were as fine as could be, having from two to four spikes, and from two and a half feet high.”

Vick said it all when he wrote in 1874, “I have never known a case where the Gladiolus failed to give the most perfect satisfaction, opening a new field of beauty to those unacquainted with its merits.”

[Photo above courtesy of American Meadows.]

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