I dare you to turn up your noses at these virginal beauties. Gladioli really don’t deserve to be humiliated and mistreated, just thought of as a mere vulgar accessory to a Dame Edna evening. I think they’re stunning and I’d love you to give them a chance in your garden. They come in a huge variety of colours and forms – from large, blousy, frilly edged show offs to small, shy, delicate beauties. Buy the corms now and start planting in the weeks up to the end of April.
How to grow Gladioli
I think it’s better to just have a go than be overwhelmed by strict instructions so for those, like me, who are far from perfectionists, I’d say dig a hole about the depth of your hand (15-20cms), pop in the corm pointy end up, cover and wait for the joy of seeing a shoot. You’ll need to support them when they’re in bloom or, if you want perfectly straight spikes you need to train them from young. If you’re planting quite a few and you don’t want them to all flower at the same time plant some upside down, some on their side and some the right way up – the wrong ones take a bit longer to struggle and get themselves sorted so you get three waves of bloom in succession.
But here’s the proper way to do it from Sarah Raven:
All gladioli are easy to grow. As soon as the soil has warmed up in March or April, plant the corms 20cm (8in) deep; this is deeper than most books will tell you. I use a bulb planter but a long trowel or leek dibber will do. Secured deep in the ground, you are less likely to need a stake. Plant them about 15cm (6in) apart.
If you have bought quite a few, don’t plant them all at once. Stagger their planting and you will get a better succession of flowers.
Gladioli need plenty of water to flower well. So, if you can, dig a trench and pile well-rotted manure into the base before planting. This will help feed the bulbs and will also retain water. On well-drained poorer soil, extra watering will be required.
As soon as the flowers appear and until at least three weeks after flowering, apply a high-potash feed (like Tomarite or comfrey juice) every two weeks.
This is essential on poorer soils where flowering will diminish with each successive season.
It’s always said you need to lift your gladioli – that, like dahlias, they’ll be frosted if left in the ground. It’s my fourth year of growing them at Perch Hill and I’ve never lifted them. I mulch them deeply with 6-7cm (2.5in) of mushroom compost to give them an insulating duvet over their heads in late autumn.