Fresh Again: A new feature? Re-styling Gladiolas

gladiolas dated flowers

I happened across a discussion over at garden web recently  about what makes gardens look dated and it has really got me thinking about which comments I agree or disagree with.  I’m generally of the mind set that looking dated is more often the result of many factors rather than just one thing.  For example, I think that railroad sleepers can make a garden look dated – but they can, if used in a modern way, also be very stylish.  ‘Dated’ is tricky; what is dated?

gladiola gladiolus espresso deep red funeral flowers

Gladiolus ‘Espresso’

Dated, to me it means that it makes me think of another time or era (a date).  But how does a trend get associated with a date….well, I think it is a couple of things.  First is use — specifically over use.  Sarah over at Toronto Gardens tweeted me saying, a good thing is “Like a Month of Sundays. Anything good can be bad when you have too much of it.” Dated plants are those that we all know so well, because they were so popular that they became indicative of a time.  Fashions play a huge role too–they come and go and come again.  Which is where I came up with the idea for this post (and perhaps the series going forward).

gladiolus-callianthus Gladiolus - callianthus 'Murielae'

Gladiolus callianthus

Do we agree that a trend becomes a trend because there is something good there? -at least at the beginning, and that often the problem is that the trend becomes ubiquitous, is applied inappropriately or universally, and ultimately goes out of fashion.   It is the goodness of a dated trend that I want to challenge myself to find.  So I gave myself to to a little mental shake up — I sat down and thought of all the plants that I think are dated, tacky, garish, or otherwise not amongst a list of things I would consider interesting and fashionable and then I set out to disprove that notion by finding a use or variety that actually is quite appealing and appropriate today (i.e. Fresh Again).  I am purposely upsetting my own apple cart; since I think that being a good designer means that I need to remain open minded and creative.

Gladiolus x gandavensis Grandiflora-hybrid 'Green Star'

Gladiolus x gandavensis Grandiflora-hybrid ‘Green Star’

Some of my twitter friends have fed me with their lists of plants that they think are dated and over used, and that they are just plain sick of.  I am going to use their suggestions along with some of my own and see how this little feature goes for a while.   First in the line up….gladiolas….my own version of a dated plant.

A vendor recently brought gladiolas to the farmers market that I run and it reminded me of a childhood where a floral bouquet from a professional almost always included a few spikes of gladiolas at the back.  I never liked these designs and now, even when arranged in a more loose and natural way, I find the baby soft, and candy sick pastel colors of these dated and ubiquitous cutting flowers repulsive. I feel bad for taking this opinion against a local farmers product but I simply can’t help myself – glads are dated.

There is a reason however why gladiolas became so popular – they are big flowered, easy to grow and come in lots of colors : hence universal appeal.  They were in every cutting garden and every floral bouquet in the 70’s and early 80’s but are now much less in fashion.  To me the flowers are just too blousy, and the staking that the biggest ones require just to stand upright is simply not worth it.

Gladiolus imbricatus, Rysk sabellilja Foto: SLU, Öjebyn

Gladiolus imbricatus

So how can gladiolas be Fresh Again?  Choose modern colors like the deep red of Gladiolus ‘Espresso’ or the lime color of Gladiolus x gandavensis Grandiflora-hybrid ‘Green Star’.   I think mixing these with other similarly colored or contrasting plants would be nice.  These are better because they are as bold and strong in their color as in their shape and form.  I also think that there is a lot of value in the varieties of gladiola that have a slightly more wild flower look like Gladiolus callianthus and Gladiolus imbricatus. These almost don’t even look like gladiolas that we all know, but rather more exotic and orchid-like and they tend to be hardier than the big guys. These are a far better garden addition and the cuttings will be stylish too. 

So coming up in my Fresh Again Series:

Billy’s Impatiens.

Fern’s Stella d’oro Daylilies

Sarah’s Marching Red Saliva

Lynn’s Yews

Anna and Keith’s Pampas Grass

Christina’s Juniper Tam

and Adam’s Ligustrum

It’s a good start at a list of dated duds that need some fresh ideas.  Do you have a plant to add to our list?  Let me know and I will add it for an upcoming feature.

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.
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4 Comments

  1. Layanee on October 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Ahhhh, but a bouquet of all white glads is a pure sight to behold. Love the bolder colors.

  2. Soni on October 9, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    It’s funny, the Gladiolus imbricatus is very similar looking to byzantinus, which is very popular among the southern heirloom bulb colectors. There are some oldies but goodies.

  3. Natalie Blackburn on October 10, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Other dated or overused plants? Japanese maple.

  4. Sprout on October 10, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Yews and day lilies were on my mental list when I started reading your thread. Can’t wait to see how you take them into the 21st century!

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