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5:15pm Tuesday 8th April 2008 in Gardening
ONCE it was gaudy but the gladiolus is making a more subtle comeback in gardens this summer.
There is a gladiolus to suit most tastes but it was the delicate-looking Gladiolus callianthus Murielae' that was crowned 2008 Summer Bulb of the Year.
Industry experts voted it the must have' bulb because of its appearance, versatility and ease of growing. It also has a delicious perfume to be enjoyed on mild late summer evenings.
This upright perennial with fragrant white flowers and distinctive purple markings in the throat, has sword-like grassy leaves about half as tall as the 18 to 24 inch arching flower spikes.
The flowers look particularly dramatic against a dark, leafy backdrop of summer-flowering evergreens such as cistus or escallonia or the deep plum-leafed Pittosporum tenuifolium Purpureum.' It flourishes when planted 10 to 16cm deep in fertile, well-drained soil and in full sun. The flowers bloom from August to September. Plant it in an accessible area of the garden, such as beside a pathway, where you can enjoy the fantastic scent.
It can be grown outside over summer, but often there is insufficient time after flowering for the corms to mature for the following year.
Consequently, many treat it as an annual and grow it fresh each year in border groups or pots.
Gladioli can also be used to fill gaps in borders, especially the late-flowering types, which provide a burst of colour when many other flowering shrubs and perennials have faded.
All gladioli - and many summer-flowering bulbs in general - like rich, free-draining soil in a sunny, sheltered position.
Plant gladioli in clumps of five to seven corms, 10cm (4in) deep and 10cm (4 in) apart, during March and April.