Anne Swith­in­bank of­fers ex­pert tips and favourite va­ri­eties

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Gardening -

WHILE steadily work­ing our way through late au­tumn leaf rak­ing, mulching and prun­ing, gar­den­ers are plan­ning for next year. You could say our plots turn win­try and bare in di­rect con­trast to the colour­ful dis­plays play­ing out in our busy minds!

If there’s a bor­der fail­ing to please, now’s the time to clear away un­wanted plants, con­di­tion soil, an­a­lyse grow­ing con­di­tions and cre­ate some­thing new. Lightly shaded beds might call for wood­land plants but if you have sun, why not choose one showy flower? This can be a dahlia or tall Mex­i­can sun­flower (Titho­nia) full of or­ange daisies – but for real glam­our go for glad­i­oli, bought as corms for spring plant­ing.

Glad­i­oli orig­i­nate mainly from South Africa and Mediter­ranean re­gions, where they grow in mead­ows, on stony slopes and oc­ca­sion­ally in marshy ground. From the 1950s to the 1970s, th­ese were pop­u­lar al­lot­ment flow­ers slot­ted in rows be­tween onions and cabbages to pro­vide un­wieldy cut flow­ers for the house. Even the shorter ones look silly in my vases, and I much pre­fer them slot­ted into the gar­den, where their ver­ti­cal, sword-like shapes – even in leaf and green bud – add ac­cent and colour. Hav­ing sur­vived a decade or two of ridicule, glad­i­oli are back in force, with a pageant of ex­cit­ing new cul­ti­vars. For a new bor­der, I’m in­spired by ‘Break of Dawn’, a small­flow­ered type with blooms that re­mind me of pale scram­bled eggs. I can imag­ine it with a strong yel­low, per­haps ‘Yel­low Gem’, as well as a pur­ple like ‘Vi­o­letta’, all small-flow­ered and reach­ing 28-36in (70-90cm) tall. Yet larger-flow­ered cul­ti­vars soar­ing to 36in-4ft (90cm-1.2m) are hard to re­sist. Flow­er­ing time de­pends on when the corms are planted from March to June, but is usu­ally from July to Oc­to­ber.

Lovers of the sub­tle and nat­u­ral can seek out the species and their hy­brids.

Nanus types are dainty, with each corm pro­duc­ing two or more flower spikes, while G. ‘Ruby’ and other cul­ti­vars with dis­tinc­tive hooded flow­ers de­scend from the green, cream and pur­ple South African G. pa­pilio. Pur­ple-pink Gla­di­o­lus

com­mu­nis subsp. byzanti­nus loves a sunny bor­der, and the creamy-white flow­ers of G. tris­tis are evening scented.

Prov­ing they can nat­u­ralise well, th­ese glad­i­oli have been left in a bor­der for six years and were still flow­er­ing in Oc­to­ber in East Devon!

Mixed glad­i­oli in a kitchen gar­den

The creamy white Gla­di­o­lus tris­tis

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