When we first moved here nearly 30 years ago, a few tall stems of vibrant magenta flowers suddenly appeared in the middle of a tangle of weeds. They had the same structure and similar flowers to the gladioli grown in rigid rows in the veg gardens of my youth, but there the resemblance ended. These were relaxed, laid-back flowers with a natural grace and elegance.
Gardeners can be very snobbish about gladioli but
G. communis byzantinus is such a rascally plant, most are enchanted by it. Our magenta gladiolus was identified as G. communis byzantinus, but there are several other magenta species. One, G.
italicus, , is a cornfield weed and avoids destruction by pulling its corms down deeper than the plough can reach.
When G. byzantinus finishes flowering, its seed pods turn brown and open. In the Scilly Isles it’s known as ‘whistling Jack’ due to the strange noise made when the wind rushes through them.