22 August 2023
The middle of the summer brings us two more flowers designated for those born in August, the Gladiolus and Poppy.
Often shortened to “glad,” this bloom came to us from South Africa and its name reminds us of gladius or gladiator, which means sword, coming from its straight stem and point. This plant, however, is toxic to some animals, including cats and dogs.
Their family is the Iris and the plant is native to Europe, South Africa, Asia, and South America.
The story goes that in Greek mythology, Hyacinthus was accidentally killed by Apollo as he threw a discus, and in her stead came the gladiolus. Another tale is that Demeter, goddess of harvest, had a sacred grove. A man continually stole firewood from this grove and one day beheaded one of Demeter’s disciples and the blood of the decedent sprouted gladioli. Continuing the myth, the man sank into poverty and tried to sell his own daughter to raise money. The daughter fled to Demeter’s grove where the goddess turned her into a gladiolus.
It is said that dreaming of gladioli is a message from a loved one who has passed on.
It is considered to represent strength of character, honesty, and generosity. Colors of the blooms call upon other characteristics:
- White – Purity and innocence.
- Yellow – Happiness and friendship
- Pink – Love but not the romantic kind
- Red – Sincere love
It is considered the flower to honor a 40th anniversary.
If you are using them in your home garden, remember their height and place them as a backdrop for smaller blooms. Plant them in the spring after the soil has warmed. They like full sun but will do fine in some partial shade. Enrich the soil before you plant the bulbs so the bed is soft and ready to accept the corms or bulbs. Place them four to six inches deep to give the roots a good basis so you won’t need to stake the plants as they grow. Stagger the plantings so that you have a more continuous bloom cycle in the garden. Mulch well to reduce weeds and help retain water.
When the leaves brown in the autumn, dig up the bulbs and dry them in a cool area. Snap off the tops and keep in a cool, dry space but do not allow them to freeze. Select the best corms for replanting in the spring.
These delicate flowers arrive in late summer bringing a variety of colors from deep red through yellow, pink, and orange. They are best known as a remembrance for those lost in battle. During World War I, a poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, refers to those fallen in defense of their countries and it subsequently caused this flower to become a world wide symbol.
In addition, there are other meanings:
- Yellow – Success, optimism, and prosperity
- Orange – Health, well being, recovery
- Pink – Non-romantic love
- White – Sympathy
While our garden varieties are the the same as those that produce opium, it should come as no surprise that stories about this plant come in two main themes, death and rebirth. Associated with Persephone the lady kidnapped by Hades and forced to mary and live with him in the underworld, as the woman was reunited with her mother, Demeter, in the spring, the flowers returned from their winter hiatus.
To grow these delightful plants, start with seed. They don’t do well as transplants but will self seed and continue to give your garden color and character, although the subsequent years’ product may not be exactly what you started with. To germinate, the soil must be consistently between 55 to 60 degrees. Note this is soil temperature, not the ambient or air temperature. Then in about a week or two, you will see them emerge. If you take the time to deadhead (remove the spent flowers), it will encourage reblooming for the season. Just be sure to leave enough seed heads so that they will reappear next year.