November 15, 2019

Fiery Sword

Gladiolus 'Rapid Red'

Janine Pineo Photo | Gladiolus ‘Rapid Red’

It’s easy to forget to plant summer-flowering bulbs in the spring, what with all our attention usually on getting seeds, seedlings and perennials in the ground. But then you wouldn’t have something as lovely as Gladiolus ‘Rapid Red’ to set fire to the garden in late summer. The sword-like foliage is the source of the name, taken from the Latin gladius for “a sword.” A glad couldn’t be easier to plant, just putting the corm — a relative of the bulb — into the ground several inches (we usually don’t go more than three) and covering it up. The rich green foliage makes a sharp counterpoint to bushier plants. And when that flower spike develops, the color continues for days as the blooms open from the base to the tip. As a genus, gladiolus is a curious one; of the 260 species, 250 are native to South Africa in one small region of the world known as the Cape Floristic Region, one of six floral kingdoms in the world.