• August 20, 2014

Gladly growing gladioli

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Posted: Saturday, September 7, 2013 4:30 am

Gladioli have been the mainstay of the professional floral business for decades, and now these stately stems of beaucoup buds are taking on a classic, retro look in homes and gardens.

Here’s what Dutch-born floral designer Rene van Rems, author of “Rene’s Bouquets,” said about the gladioli your grandmother probably included in her cut-flower garden. He and Lily Occasions, a component of the educational website iBulb.org, promote fresh-cut flowers from bulbs as sources of material for wedding bouquets and home-styled centerpieces. Ideas for weddings are showcased at lilyoccasions.com and his new book, “Rene’s Bouquets for Brides,” at renevanrems.com.

How did the gladiolus get to America? The gladiolus hails primarily from South Africa but some gladioli are native to the Canary Islands, England and Turkey as well. The name gladiolus comes from the Latin word ‘gladius’, meaning sword and refers to the plant’s sword-shaped leaves. The word ‘gladiator’ comes from the same root word.

What is the gladiolus role in the floral design? In the world of flower design there are four categories: mass flowers, filler flowers, form flowers and line flowers. Gladioli are considered line flowers. Line flowers are skinny, long, linear flowers or twigs that have movement. Curly willow, liatris, pussy willow, gladiolus, all flowering branches and cattails are considered line flowers.

Some ideas for using glads in arrangements? Glads are very versatile because they can be used in floral design for both classic and modern settings. Simply use them differently. Here are three approaches:

Modern look: Use gladioli with some curly willow or other attractive sticks, but no other flowers. This way the full impact of the color comes forward.

Classic mixed look: Mix cut glads with lilies for a vase with both line flowers and form flowers in one design. When you use gladioli with other flowers, always use the glads as the long lines in the composition, rather than cutting them short and the same length as the other flowers.

Solo look: Cut open gladioli blooms in several pieces and use them as short flowers in a bowl so they look like single flowers in one design. This creates a centerpiece without obstructing the view across the dining table. Perfect as centerpieces for elegant occasions like weddings and anniversaries.

Tall gladioli can be heavy, so what containers are best? The best container for gladioli is a heavy vase, like ceramic or glass, which in itself will help balance the composition. Vase height should be one third of the total length of the flowers. You can go with a taller vase, but it will make the flowers stand up straighter. Rocks, glass pebbles and uncut ornamental fruit all make for great stabilizers.

Is flower food good to use? When purchasing cut flowers, always ask for flower food, which has has sugar, biocides and water acidifiers so that the water actually has a lower pH., thus being softer. Soft water is absorbed by flower stem tissue much faster than hard water.

Are glads a long-lasting flower? Fresh-cut, closed glads last long because instead of having one blossom, like a rose, the stem has many blossoms and they all open slowly from the bottom up. More flower buds equal more future flowers.

Are glads heavy drinkers? Gladioli love to drink, just don’t put them in a lot of water. Six inches of water is great, just keep adding water to the container, rather than filling the whole vase. Less water equals fewer bacteria. Most “soft tissue” summer flowers, such as sunflowers, stock and dahlias, drink a lot of water.

Kathy Van Mullekom | Daily Press (Newport News, Va.

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