05 Aug 2010

How to Select Fresh-Cut Gladiolus

Gladiolus

[Gladioli Day 3 after purchase]

gladiola floret closed

[Gladiolus floret bud, day 1, purchase state]

chartreuse gladiola

[Gladioli, day 1, purchase or harvest state]

Gladioli have made a kind of comeback in recent years. They no longer suffer from the widespread stigma of being a dated, old-fashioned funeral flower because of the diversity of colors and forms that hybridization from the last few decades have brought.  Today, you can find them in every color imaginable and in interesting bi-colors.  Although available from florists year round, around here, they are only available from local markets  during summer, July to September.

Selecting Glads from a Vendor

Because I’ve yet to see any of the “Glamini,” compact, or dwarf varieties being sold at the fresh-cut market, this post is for the traditional tall glads.  For selection, look for long, straight spikes with at least one or two florets on the verge of opening.  The majority of florets should be in bud, unopened.   Also, there should be about ten to twelve florets for each spike.  If there are fewer than ten, check to see if any spent flowers at the bottom of the stalk have been picked.  If the stems are short, and you can tell some florets are gone, ask for a discount because it means the stalks are likely past their prime.  Similarly, if more than half of the florets are fully open, it usually indicates the flowers are mature and you shouldn’t expect them to last for longer than a week.  Basically, at a flower vendor you are looking for three-foot long, straight spikes with at least 10 florets that are mostly in bud.  To me, it’s okay if a couple of spikes are not straight the lines can be interesting and Gladiolus is sensitive to the force of gravity, so you may see curvature; if at a vendor, check any curved tips to ensure it is not caused from a break or withering buds.

Garden Harvest

If you are harvesting from your garden and don’t want to worry about the florets not fully opening, pick your glads when they are a quarter to half-open.  Also be sure to condition them with preservative (sugar helps them open) and keep them warm.  Cold will prevent full opening.  Another tip if you want straight stalks for designing is to always keep the stalks straight by using a mesh grid in your bucket while you condition them.  Finally, you can cut off the terminal bud to prevent tropisms.

Generally, fresh-cut gladioli is long lasting.  They can last for about 2 weeks.  What will hasten their demise is ethylene, so keep them away from ripening fruits and vegetables.  While the open flowers are not vulnerable, buds with too much exposure will expire prematurely, which will shorten your enjoyment time.  To ensure the longest life, you should remove any spent, faded buds; change the water about every two days; use a preservative; and, re-cut the stem while under water.  I like to switch to a different container for the second week of display because cutting the stalk down takes away quite a bit of height, plus changing containers helps the flowers stay interesting.  Another tip:  if you want to keep the flowers and your display area clean, you can remove the pollen that creates dust by gently pulling the anthers off.

Glads have always been one of my favorites because they offer so much.  They’re dramatic, have a lot of mileage and remind me of orchids and Iris, but cost only a third as much.  Plus, they are very easy to grow and propagate.  I think gardeners who grow glads don’t really have the funerary association.  For me, bright glads swaying in the flowerbed distance sound-off Summertime!

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