Flowering this week: Gladiolus tristis

Gladiolus tristus - the charm of the species

Gladiolus tristus - the charm of the species

Dame Edna Everidge with her love for gladdies would not agree with me, but I say there are some plants which have not necessarily been improved by hybridising and the gladiolus is one of them. The modern gladdie sits alongside nasty overblown marigolds and over bred cyclamen and chrysanthemums. But go back to some of the species and they are infinitely charming in their purity and simplicity and can easily justify a place in the garden. Gladiolus tristis hails from southern Africa, as do so many of our good garden bulbs here. It grows from a corm and with wiry thin stems, it supports itself without staking. The display of pale lemon flowers is delightful. It is night scented (often a sign that the pollinators are moths but I have no idea if this is true for tristis). Sniff it in the morning and there is no hint of scent but come evening, the fragrance is a divine. Because it also has very thin leaves which are almost anonymous, once flowering has finished for the season, tristis is unobtrusive in the garden while it builds up its strength before going dormant for summer. There are others species gladiolus which are equally charming.