Monday, September 27, 2010

Learning to like Gladiola

I loved Edith Hope's wonderful post in July on the subject of gladioli, which she titled "Things My Mother Told Me."

Firstly, I thought the provocative title was perfect. Secondly, I identified with the subject matter in a number of ways. In this post, Edith recounts that her mother would frequently remark that, "Gladioli are such vulgar flowers." As I told Edith in my comment, my mother had a very similar hard and fast opinion of certain flowers.

By way of example, my mother regarded roses as hopelessly old fashioned, ridiculously temperamental and their thorns mercilessly hostel.

My mother wouldn't dream of having boring old roses in her garden! Instead she preferred the oriental poppies with their bright red, tissue paper thin flowers. ( If you are old enough, you may remember that poppies, both the flower and the motif, were all the rage in the 1970's.)

For my mother, who was a suburban housewife with a garden, poppies were an irresistibly bohemian choice of garden flower. They not only hailed from far more exotic local than Nova Scotia (our home provence), they faintly scandalous as the source of the world's supply of opium.

And perhaps the apple does not fall far from the tree, because I too have a negative view of certain flowers. While I would not go so far as to agree with Edith's mother that gladioli are "vulgar", I must confess that I have never been a big fan of glads. 

Its hard to like a flower when you closely associate it with death. Let me explain.

An Irish graveyard

A zillion years ago, for a brief time I worked for a small florist. 

(And before I go further, I wish to state so as not to possibly offend blogging friends, that not all florists are created equal. Some florists are certainly more talented with flowers than others.)

Anyway, at the florist's in question, when someone passed a way, we were encouraged recommended "funeral containers" as an appropriate expression of sympathy. At R_'s House of Flowers, these large scale arrangements were made using rather hideous, white, papier-mâché containers that we stuffed full of oasis chips. Glads were rammed into the oasis in a fan-like display to add height to the arrangement and balance the girth of the container. 

The whole arrangement was most often finished with a flourish of inexpensive daisies or carnations, a large gaudy bow and a sympathy card attached with a straight pin. The simple card commonly read something safe and almost impersonal like, "With Deepest Sympathy, The Smith Family." (It seems that people are so worried about saying the wrong thing when it comes to death and bereavement, that they say as little as they possibly can.)

Now, most often the glads in these funeral containers were not fresh, in-season glads (unlike the ones shown here). They were limp, barely open glads that had been kept on life support at the back of the store's cooler. The spindly tops, which would never open, were usually sapped off. 

No one ever complained about theses funeral arrangements. Funerals are generally executed fairly expeditiously. The arrangement only had to last a few days. What seemed to matter most was the fact that the container was large and showy expression of genuine sympathy. 

The problem now is, when I think of glads, I can't help it, I think of funeral arrangements!

But, look at the glads fresh from the market. They are so lovely! How can I hold my past against them? 

On top of that, they are inexpensive. $10 will get you a nice bunch!

I know that I just need to get over and on with it, but I have one other small problem. While I am usually good at arranging flowers, those ram-rod straight gladiola stems confound me when I come to arrange them nicely in a vase.

Recently, I noticed this rather nice arrangement of glads in Canadian House and Home magazine.

Home of the Month, Canadian House and Home, September, 2010, Photo by Andre Rider

Note the glads on the grand piano. I like the casual arrangement of the glads and clean, contemporary look of the glass vase. And it is an arrangement that I can easily replicate in my own home.

So, I still don't love glads, but I am trying to learn to like them.

How about you? Is there a flower that you struggle to like?


  1. I am not a great fan of glads but I have grown them and have bought them for my home. The glads I planted outside all needed support and the ones I bought for the house did not completely open. I love roses outside but not inside in containers. They just don't seem to last in my house.

    I must admit your photos of the glads are beautiful!


  2. I have a neighbour who is a very talented gardner. We continually banter about flora over the course of the growing season and she is strongly opinionated about her plants. Me, not so much. My space is limited, therefore precious, so I try and fill it with proven producers - plants that have impressed me over the years. The neighbour gardener loves to try all the new trendy plants, and is constantly ripping out and replacing her plants with something new and improved. It's all a matter of personal choice. I happen to not grow glads in my garden but do enjoy a bunch purchased from the market. Your photos are stunning!

  3. Dear Jennifer, I am pleased to see that the for or against the Galdiolus debate is alive and well on your weblog. I understand completely all the mixed emotions you have regarding this flower and I identify with everything you say. However, I have warmed to this flower and although I only permit white ones in my Budapest apartment and white and green in Maida Vale, they are, literally, growing on me. I personally think that when it comes to allowing them indoors they need to be crammed into a large vase. Arranging them just does not work for me!

    Thank you, dear Jennifer, for your very kind link to my previous posting.

  4. I just LOVE gladiolas! They're the most beautiful bulb flowers there are, in my opinion.

  5. Although I don't have any gladiolas in my garden at present I've often thought of buying some. They really are an 'over the top' kind of flower but I remember my mother growing them when I was little and at the age of 9 I thought they were the most impossibly beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I guess part of me is still 9 years old because your photos made me think about planting glads again.

  6. Hmm... definitely remind me of funerals. But they do have nice colors. and your photo's are beautiful.

  7. Jennifer I have to admit to not liking glads very much myself .. which is strange since at one time I did have them in a garden when we lived in Nova Scotia .. funny how we react to some plants from previous exposure ? what happened to us during that fragment of time to influence us in favor or against .. who knows !
    Yes ! the arrangement of those glads on the piano is amazing ! Your pictures are so pretty !
    Joy (creepy pumpkin gal ? LOL)

  8. What a great post. When I first saw the title and then the top photos I was so sucked in. Easy to learn to love them - they are so stunning! But, then I started thinking about it and I would never consider purchasing them. My mom couldn't stand them. I know... lame reason. Thank you for visiting my blog today. I look forward to reading more of your posts. :)

  9. All your photos are beautiful but I'm especially smitten with the poppy. I'm going to try them from seeds this year for the first time and I'm just hoping they'll take! The Glads are gorgeous in your photos, but I too am not a big fan of them. I'll occassionally buy them for a vase inside as they can be somewhat dramatic for just a bit of money but I'm not inspired to grow them.

  10. I love glads, maybe because my mother loved any and all flowers she could get to grow. Her growing conditions were rough to say the least, and when you have to draw water from a well to water your flowers you learn to love them all.

  11. You've put your finger right on it. It's glads I don't like! I'm not sure why, but they were available at every roadside stand in my hometown in the sumemr, so maybe I'm just tired of them. And they are just way too straight!


  12. I have grown glads every year since I have owned my own home ,over 50 years. I can't go a year without them.
    When I was a child in the early 40's my father grew them every year also. I guess that is why love
    growing them.
    My father would put one dozen in each bunch,put about ten dozen in a big pail, and my brother and I
    would sell them door to door, for twenty five cents a dozen, and we got five cents for each bunch that
    we sold.Those were the good old days.
    Ralph Feb 5 /2013 at 1130 p.m.


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