I wrote late last year about "impostor bulbs"-- Gladiolus italicus (Italian glads) sold under the guise of the rarer (and much more expensive) Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus (Byzantine glads).
The short version: After I ordered what were labeled Byzantine gladiolus, I read enough about the subject to guess that they were not-- and when I received my order and examined the corms, that suspicion was confirmed. The other main tidbit from that old blog entry? If the corms are surprisingly affordable, they're not Byzantine gladioli. Expect to reach deep in the pocketbook for the real deal.
I planted the corms anyway, in the hopes that they would still be pretty. (It wasn't worth going through the hassle of returning them, even if it might have been possible.)
Fast forward a few months, and the Italian gladiolus had put up the typical gladiolus-type foliage-- swordlike, but narrower and of shorter stature than the typical hybrid glads. Eventually, flower buds appeared-- the type that remind me of heads of grain, like the ones you'll find on crocosmia.
And then the first flowers opened. Here's a photo from several days ago:
...And a couple of close-ups of the flowers...
They're not the brightest, boldest flowers I've ever seen... And they are pretty small...
But they're certainly not ugly, and I can imagine that as they multiply, they might put on a more impressive show. The color is more intense on the outsides of the petals than on the inside:
Here are more photos, taken today. As you can see, with more of the flowers open, they're already somewhat more impressive.
They're not show-stoppers, but they could make a nice addition to a spring flowerbed-- especially in a more casual or meadow-style garden.
The foliage and form remind me somewhat of crocosmia (the two are related), but instead of red, orange, or yellow, these are magenta.
So, the verdict... I would rather these had been Byzantine gladioli, which are larger and showier, but Italian gladioli are still pretty. I'll be curious to see how they do in years to come-- how quickly they may multiply, for instance. While they're not as impressive as the Byzantine variety, at least they're not as pale and sickly as some of the photos I've seen (posted by sellers comparing them unfavorably to the pricier ones on offer).
I can imagine giving in and ordering the Real Thing, at some point, if the opportunity presents itself and I can convince myself that it's a worthwhile splurge. (Tallying up all the ways I save money and all the things I don't spend on usually helps ease the guilt long enough to place an order...) However, I still feel scandalized that a single corm should cost so much.
The photo above is a portion of the Oval Bed (still no better name for it, alas), where you'll see (among other things) the Italian gladioli and another of the spring bulbs/corms I wrote about last year. The pale blue/violet flowers at the base of the glad foliage are spring starflowers (Ipheion uniflorum). I've posted pictures of some of them before this.
As I believe I've already mentioned, the first to bloom this year was 'Jessie', followed by 'Rolf Fiedler', followed by the species. The ones in the photo above are the species, which are still blooming. (The first two varieties have more or less finished, I think.)
These starflowers in the next photo I believe may be 'White Star', though they aren't quite as stark a white as they appear in many photos I've seen...
However, compared to the species (the photo below, taken several days back), they are whiter. To tell the truth, I can't remember where I planted the 'White Star' bulbs, but I'm fairly confident I have these identified. In that case, the last type to bloom was 'White Star'.
The "backs" of Ipheion uniflorum have these darker midribs/stripes down the center of each petal-- a subtle detail on such a small flower, but pretty, all the same.
I have been favorably impressed by these little plants, this year. If they return and multiply for me, I'll be very pleased. (They're supposed to do so, but I don't know anyone personally who has grown them around here, and there's always the chance they won't like our climate enough to come back reliably.)
Another type of bulb I was planting around the same time as the hardy glads and the spring starflowers was Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica). I planted 'Excelsior' (blue or bluish-purple) and 'White City' (white).
Most went under the large loropetalum by the covered patio, but a few found spots on the other side of the patio, where they get more sun. These have come up and flowered ever-so-slightly earlier than the shadier plants.
I'm surprised to see them blooming this early, as they are supposed to be late-spring bloomers-- but then, everything seems a little early this year.
I'm not sure how they're "supposed" to look when they first start blooming, as most photos (of course) show them at peak bloom. I suspect that these might not be looking as good as they will in a few more days. I'm trying to be happy that they've bloomed at all!
This last plant is not a spring-blooming bulb/corm, but I planted them this spring, so I decided to toss them into the mix of this blog post, too!
I was surprised at how long it was taking Crocosmia 'Lucifer' to come up, given that the orange crocosmia already in the yard (for years) had been up for weeks and weeks (months?). Well, they're starting to emerge, now, and the Crocosmia 'George Davison' I planted much more recently didn't take so long to get started, as the first green swords of foliage have already shot up.
I would've been surprised if they didn't show up at all, because the crocosmia we already have are some of the most persistent plants I've ever grown-- but you never know how a named cultivar will behave, do you? We'll have to wait a while before we see the flowers, but I hope some will make an appearance, later this year.