Monthly Archives: August 2013

Way back in April…

Way back in April, our gladiolus corms arrived in the mail from Old House Gardens. We tucked the little corms into the raised bed in front of the greenhouse and have been waiting expectantly for the heirloom flowers to appear.

 

Over the past two weeks, the flower stalks have emerged from the center of the fan shaped leaves, revealing their bright blossoms a little bit each day. Even though they were all planted the same day, at the same depth, they are not all blooming at the same time, perhaps some are in more rush than others, while the others prefer to take their time.

 

It would be hard to pick a favorite flower, they are all very pretty, and I can see why this old fashioned flower continues to be popular.

 

‘Carolina Primrose’, introduced to

'Carolina Primrose' Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Carolina Primrose’ Photo by Shelagh Fritz

the plant trade in 1908 is a small and graceful gladiolus that multiplies each year without much care. According to the growers at Old House Gardens, the corms survive in zone 5! Like many heirloom plants, this corm was collected at an old home site and lucky for us it was found, as it was named ‘Bulb of the Year’ in Spring 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

'Dauntless'. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Dauntless’. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Dauntless’ is every bit its name – pink with a dramatic splash of ruby in the throat. This corm is one of the oldest traditional gladiolus offered by Old House Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Bibi’ was offered to the plant trade in 1954. Described

'Bibi'_Photo courtesy of Old House Gardens

‘Bibi’_Photo courtesy of Old House Gardens

on the Old House Gardens’ website as ‘exotically patterned in a style that dates back to Victorian days, this small-flowered, vibrant pink cutie is randomly flecked with deep rose’. The flower easily blends in with a Victorian garden of the military years or with the hippy flair of the 1960s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Friendship'. Photo courtesy of Old House Gardens

‘Friendship’. Photo courtesy of Old House Gardens

The frosty pink Gladiolus ‘Friendship’ is listed as a ‘landmark pink that has won every prize there is for glads’. In fact, “60-some years after it first bloomed for the legendary Carl Fischer it’s still considered world-class”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flower of ‘Melodie’ was a pleasant

'Melodie'. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Melodie’. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

surprise, even though I had seen the photo of it before I ordered it. I always wonder if the flower color is enhanced in the plant catalogues, but the photos were right! It is a true pink with a dark scarlet center that is edged in yellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gladiolus 'Boone'_August 2013_SLF photo 012 (6 resize)

'Contentment'. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Contentment’. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Contentment’ is a rare corm from the 1957, and despite being once the world’s most popular lavender gladiolus, it has almost stopped being grown by gardeners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cute flower of ‘Boone’ will just

'Boone'. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Boone’. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

leave you wanting to grow more of them. This little guy was rescued from an abandoned homestead in the Appalachians near Boone, North Carolina. It has graceful blooms of soft apricot and it is hardy through zone 6 and perhaps 5 according to Old House Gardens reports.  

 

 

The Abyssinian gladiolus was documented in the 1996 book Gardens of Alcatraz as growing on the island. The plant had long disappeared when the Alcatraz Historic Gardens project began in 2003, so it was finally time to bring this graceful glad back to the island. Introduced in 1888, perhaps it was grown by some of the military wives in cutting gardens. Collected from the mountains of Ethiopia in 1844, it reached America by

Abyssinian gladiolus. Photo courtesy of Old House Gardens

Abyssinian gladiolus. Photo courtesy of Old House Gardens

1888 when it was featured as brand new in Garden and Forest magazine. Formerly Acidanthera, it is now called Gladiolus callianthus ‘Murielae’. We ordered 100 of the little corms, most are planted in one raised bed in front of the rose terrace greenhouse, it will be a great site when they are all in bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

Our rarest purchase was the

'Lilac & Chartreuse' Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Lilac & Chartreuse’ Photo by Shelagh Fritz

‘Lilac & Chartreuse’ gladiolus. Introduced in, 1960, it is a shame that it is not grown more. The flower is pretty eccentric, just like the 1960s themselves – ruffled and lavender with the chartreuse thrown in.

 

I hope to add more heirloom gladiolus every year and build up our collection of these wonderful old favorites, and hopefully entice visitors to grow them too.

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A Garden Renovation that could not Wait

Winter is the usual time for us to do big garden renovations; with the winter rains, the absence of birds and fewer visitors, it is the ideal time to make changes in the garden beds. However, we had one garden area that just could not wait another couple of months.

 

Our little ‘chapel bed’ along the main roadway desperately needed some TLC. In the spring, this garden looks fantastic and is often the first bed where visitors stop and say ‘wow’ at the size of the Aeoniums. Most visitors are accustomed to seeing these ‘hens and chicks’ plants the size of a tennis ball, not basketballs, the size they easily grow to on the island.

 

The basketball size of Aeoniums in the Chapel bed along the Main Road. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The basketball size of Aeoniums in the Chapel bed along the Main Road. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The plantings in this bed were actually rescued plants from construction staging sites before the Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project began, way back in 2000. But after thirteen years, many of the plants were crowded, the rhizomes of the bearded iris were choking each other and the Aeoniums were getting very leggy (garden talk meaning, too high with the growth only at the tips of bare stems). The Aeoniums, both purple and green, do not look their best at this time of year – in response to the dry conditions in our Mediterranean climate, they drop their lower leaves and the remaining leaves shrivel in to hold onto any moisture they can.

 

The soil itself needed amending too. Each year, we have added soil to the perimeter of the bed, but could only apply topdressing, not incorporate our rich compost into the soil.

 

In a bold move, we decided it was time to clear out all the plants, saving the existing Solanum marginatum, Drosanthemum and the shrubby Hebe. Karolina and a few volunteers dug out all the plants, taking cuttings of the succulents and selecting the healthiest iris rhizomes to replant. In preparation, we had been taken cuttings of the Aeonium and were growing them in the greenhouse.

 

Digging up the existing plants. Photo by Karolina Park

Digging up the existing plants. Photo by Karolina Park

 

Adding our rich compost to the planting bed. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

Adding our rich compost to the planting bed. Photo by Shelagh Fritz

The new plants were set out in roughly the same arrangement as before. We also added in tall Verbena bonariensis to give some height and some billowy color through the summer and fall. We also removed some non-historic Gazania rigens along the front edge that always required water and planted legacy Pelargonium ‘Prince Bismarck’ and heirloom Pelargonium ‘Apricot’ that has done very well for us in west side Prisoner Gardens.

 

Planting all finished! Photo by Karolina Park

Planting all finished! Photo by Karolina Park

We will need to water the new plants until the winter rains begin but, this drought tolerant selections should be just fine with weekly watering until they are established.

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