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Archive for the ‘Gladiola’ Category

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.

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The past two weeks have been super extra busy and exciting. Learning an extensive science vocabulary and settling into a new semester has eaten up my free time (happily so) and this weekend is a full working weekend. Whenever people get excited about the 4th of July or Labor Day holidays – or most ‘national’ holidays, I tend to cringe inside. These are never great holidays for me since they fall during the busiest time of the month for my business. If I do choose to take the time off completely, things do not go well in the long run. We’ve learned to just bite the bullet and work through, enjoying the holiday as much as we can but keeping our I’s dotted and T’s crossed. Mostly I don’t mind because we take our time off elsewhere and it’s part of being self-employed. Sometimes however, it makes me a little grumpy…like this morning. So, before hitting the office, I went out to water a few plants and readjust my attitude in the garden and soak up a bit of the morning Sun. Then I saw it – the loveliest flower blooming under the bedroom window. I didn’t know it was growing and I hadn’t known it was blooming and I don’t remember planting it. A complete surprise gift from the garden just in time to get my attitude back on track. It’s a Gladiolus callianthus and one of those things I buried and forgot. I’m so glad I did.

Gladiolus callianthus - September 2011


The more I looked at it, the more interesting it was. Like how the topmost petal has no color when the other petals do.

Or the fact that the purple coloring is so dark it looks brown, and the anthers are HUGE.

I hope it cheers you up as much as it did me. Whatever you’re doing this holiday weekend, be safe and have as much fun as you can. Summer is on her way out and, before you know it, we’ll be discussing holidays involving witches and goblins, turkeys and fires in the fireplace. I’m looking forward to Fall, but I always do that right about now.

Ok, time for me to get back to my job before Tom catches on to the fact that he’s over there working hard on our financial reports and I’m over here playing with pictures of flowers….Happy Labor Day!

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Date with the Muse

The sun shines
in bright defiance
of the dark horizon
shadows wrestle
with the light
I am showing up
for my date with the muse
she is lounging
in the pear tree
discussing with the blossoms
the anticipated flavor
of the fruit.

by Lisa Kagan (excerpt)
from We’Moon Calendar – 2011

Sunlight and shadow at play in a frilly yellow Gladiola

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Today is Tuesday, so time to honor the Muse. Today, she takes the form of mentors, those people who come into your life and teach you things, and I would like to talk about my father-in-law who passed away last Wednesday. He leaves behind a very large family that adored him and a lifetime of friends who loved and respected him. He came into my life when I was still a very young woman, about 20 yrs old. He gave me a job when I desperately needed one and that’s how I eventually became a Northcutt myself.

There are many things I am grateful to him for, but the one I will highlight here is that he shared with me his knowledge of gardening, took me under his green thumb and taught me how to grow things. He had been a sharecropper in Oklahoma before moving to California all those years ago when so many people fled the dust bowl. He also had a small farm here in Ramona, Ca. By the time I met him he was mostly settled back into the suburbs just a few miles from where Tom and I live now, but his backyard was always lush and blooming with as much as would fit. The crowded state of my own backyard testifies to his influence: a little bit of lawn in the center with all the edges packed with fruits, vegetables and flowers.

He taught me how to grow peppers and potatoes and how to train vines, told me when to cut back my roses and to plant garlic under them to help keep bugs off, and how to cage my tomatoes. Thanks to him, I know about burying rusty nails in the dirt under a Hydrangea to change its color and many other nuggets of gardening wisdom and folklore that all seemed like magic in the beginning. He taught me to garden by the cycles of the moon and to read the Farmers Almanac, told me why things were not doing well and how to fix it. He told me to loosen up the dirt around the base of plants so they could breathe, answered all my questions and told me silly stories. Most impressively, he knew all of this without ever consulting the internet or a book.

Over the years he must have given me a hundred planting pots , every size and shape and material. He picked them up, along with the half dead plants that were in them, in alleys and abandoned lots, or from the recently vacated houses and apartments he was working on. We always had fun trying to bring those poor plants back to life and more often than not we had success. If I admired a plant, he would immediately whip out his pocket knife and give me a cutting, along with another pot and some dirt, and told me how to grow it. My hands were always dirty when I left his house, but they were never empty. Every time I visited we took a walk together around the yard to tour his garden, where he was always happy and always in denim overalls. We had to stop at every plant and discuss its progress, every bloom was appreciated and snails were collected and thrown over the fence – I won’t say in which direction 🙂 There was a turtle that lived in the yard and we fed it broccoli together. If there was something new growing, he told me all about it. Billy Wayne Northcutt taught me more about gardening than anybody else. It was something we had in common, besides Tom. He passed along to me one of his life’s passions and for that I will always love him and am deeply grateful that he took the time and effort to teach me something so important. Thank you, Billy, from the bottom of my heart.

If you have a mentor in your life, it is an honor, say thank you. If you are a mentor to someone else, it is an honor, say thank you.

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There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

A busy day and weekend planned. No time to write today! Sharing a garden photo and a link to a fabulous website. Welcome to summer – hang on, here we go!

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