When we moved into this house in December of 2004, my son Thomas and I planted several bags of bulbs purchased from the local nursery bulb bin sale. There wasn’t any landscaping here at the time and it was the season for planting them, so that was pretty much the first thing I ever did to the house to make it a home. Years later, the purple Gladioli still come up, bright luscious purple happiness. Ahh, home.
There are more than 250 species of Gladiolus, most of them native to South Africa. Gardeners call them bulbs, but they are technically a corm. Bulbs and corms look alike and are mostly treated the same, but the difference is on the inside. If you cut open a bulb, you’ll see it’s made of layers of modified leaves called scales. Like an onion.
But, if you cut open a corm, it’s solid tissue all the way through. What you’re planting when you plant a corm is a piece of stem, complete with nodes that will grow into a plant and roots and give you a big happy purple flower. When a root grows directly out of a stem or a leaf, it’s called adventitious – which mostly means it’s in an unusual place.
The brown papery skin covering on a Gladiolus corm is called a tunic, another modified leaf that the plant uses for protection from animals and insects, or getting soggy when there’s too much water in the soil. It also keeps too much moisture from escaping the stem before it can start to grow into a plant.
Some corms have contractile roots. This means that these roots will literally contract under ground in a way that pulls the corm deeper into the earth allowing for temperature control and space for growth above the original corm.
As a matter of self defense from animals who find them tasty, corms will develop cormels which are tiny and get left behind in the soil to grow new corms.
Some corms can be dug up, cut into pieces and replanted for more new plants.
I don’t dig mine up, I leave them be and they do their thing.
The older I get, the more I appreciate plants that do their thing without my intervention.
These are among my favorite plants in the garden, mostly because of their color and the ‘fleshy-ness’ of the flowers.
They bloom in Spring at the same time as the Matilija Poppy flowers and the color contrast is gorgeous.
The best photos are actually taken in the evening when the darker shades of purple don’t get washed out by the Sun.
I always take a hundred photos of every flower.
No, I do not think that’s excessive in any way.
Here’s a rare photo of Tom in the garden.
I made him pose there so I could see how tall the Gladiolus growing in the meditation circle gets. This one was about 6’4″. It’s always much taller than me.
Next year they’ll come up again and I’ll be reminded of my favorite color, a day fondly spent digging in the Earth with my son, and the ever-eternal optimism that is Spring.