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Notes from Up North, January 2008

We moved our glads to new ground in 2007. Perhaps that’s the reason why our corms are especially healthy. 

This is a fun year for cataloguing. Stars of the show are our “brand new” introductions of several old-timers, including some rare ones. A number of others are waiting in the wings for numbers to build up for future listing. You will also find quite a few new names in our standard listing. Several names from last year’s listing are missing, which simply means that we are re-stocking. (If you miss one from years past, ask for it. We will likely have some stock.) 

Last year I said that to get a wider sampling of opinion on our Baker’s Dozen seedling “Glad,” I will deduct a dollar from the invoice of anyone willing to try it. (I didn’t really care for it. Several of the family think it’s great!) We would appreciate hearing your opinion. A couple of other Baker’s Dozen seedlings show great promise and we hope to introduce them when stock is adequate. 

I write these lines at our kitchen table. With oil prices as they are, our wood-heated kitchen is the most comfortable room in the house. 

We wish you all a joyous new year, including great satisfaction gained from the beauty of blossoms harvested from your glad patch! 

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Notes from Up North, January 2007

Another wet summer in 2006 created a situation of “planting between the raindrops.” Fortunately, there was a dry period early in April during which we got 90% of the crop in the ground! 

As usual I resolved, “No new glads this year. We already have cultivars enough!” Then of course we tried out about 50 new varieties. Many were outstanding, especially some of of the new Hartline varieties. 

Again our list is a combination of heirloom and newer varieties, with the older ones our specialty. We have recently acquired a dozen or more “brand new” (for us) glads from the pre-1970 era. As numbers become adequate in future years we’ll add them to our list. 

Suddenly Bibi has gained additional interest. In an article about antique glads in Holland I discovered its correct classification number, 363, and year of introduction, 1954. I apologize for previous incorrect information. 

We are pleased to offer our first new introduction: Bob Martin’s unusual double glad Dorothy S., named after his wife. Please see our new introductions list for photos and a lengthy description. 

Wishing you all a great growing season! 

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Notes from Up North, January 2006

That was a stunning picture of the new All-American glad, Martha Stewart, on the cover of Glad World. It looked to have the mechanics of Madeson’s Deanna, with the color of driven snow. But where could one get corms? None of the cataloguers we know even listed it. You’d think that Martha Stewart was controversial or something! Personally, I admire Martha Stewart — the lady — whose life is a remarkable story of lifting oneself up by the bootstraps. 

Lo and behold, two small lots of three bulbs each, of Martha Stewart, appeared at our auction. I was a determined bidder, but every bid was topped by an unknown gentleman in the back of the room. I finally made the high bid, considerably above the All American fixed price. Of course, I allowed the other bidder to have the second lot. On the way down to lunch I asked him why he was so determined to get that glad. “Oh,” he said, “it’s a joke. My daughter can’t stand that woman!” Some joke. It cost me big bucks! 

May was literally a washout! Rain, rain, rain. We had planted 90% of our glad bulbs on well-drained land in early April, but our small annual (non-glad) flowers were in big trouble. Every time we were ready to plant, the garden turned into a swamp. 

The “glad catastrophe” happened on a pleasant June afternoon. While cultivating the early glad field, I hit a rock and turned, briefly, to see if the cultivator had been damaged. No problem there, but during that brief moment of inattention I had plowed out some very special glads, including DeannaRoyal Spire, and About Face. The moral of this story is, if you have a problem while cultivating, stop the tractor before investigating! 

Looking forward to our Maine glad show, my main question was, “Will Martha make it?” When the first bud appeared it seemed to be right on schedule. I cut the spike the day before the show, and on show day Martha was an example of pure floral beauty. 

Ralph Knowles, our judge, was once a commercial glad grower and surely Maine’s outstanding floral designer of gladiolus arrangements. An NAGC-accredited judge might have discounted Martha for size (grown from a medium-sized bulb). For a floral designer’s eye, beauty prevailed, and Martha was named champion against tough competition in the largest class in the show. 

The plow-out story had a happy ending. Of course I re-planted the corms, but the mature corms never really recovered. However, the bulblets showed no damage from the mishap, and last week I cut a beautiful Deanna from a bulblet. 

Among newer glads, Pillow Talk and Frosty Cardinal (named for a church prelate in northern Alaska?) were outstanding. We managed to secure stock of the old-timer, Inca Chief from Bud Bullard. This late-season large, bright orange is surely a classic! Pink Challenger was much improved in its second year. It has the mechanics of Lady Lucilleand the color of Doris Darling

We hope to list some of these varieties in future years. 

Best of wishes from Maine to all you great gladiolus fans! 

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Notes from Up North, January 2005

2004! What a year! 

Shortly after the Albany convention I received a call asking if I would be a ‘paper’ candidate for the Maine state legislature. No real responsibility. Just get the required 50 signatures to hold the seat open until a ‘real’ candidate was found. 

Never agree to such an innocuous-sounding proposal because the political bug is very contagious! Soon good political friends were saying, “Why don’t you go for it? You’d be great!” and I thought, “I’m retired from teaching, so why not?” 

If you think you can do a political campaign with your left hand while your right hand is doing all the planting, weeding, flower-sales, etc., think again! Politics is time-consuming. Still, the glads and other flowers got planted and all the other work got done because of one resolution: no door-to-door campaigning until Sept. 15th, when sales will be winding down. Also, two very dependable high school age weeders and our family pitching in were a godsend. 

Then, right in the middle of a season in which I had not focused quite as much on flowers, my attention was brought with a jolt into strong focus on the glads. The reason: Deanna. Surely we had never seen a more beautiful glad: an exquisite multi-toned rose with wonderful substance, placement, and ruffling. It opened four the first day, so we were not surprised that sixteen were open before fading began. 

Of course, an old-time grower has to ask, “How will this cultivar hold up? Does it have the stamina to resist all the health-related pitfalls to which glads are subject? As of now, Deanna is as near perfect as one could ever imagine, and we will do our best to keep it that way. A sincere ‘thank-you’ to Lyle Madeson! 

2004 was a good year for our commercial cut-flower sales. Even white glads, a perennial favorite, saw sharply reduced demand. The deep violets — Purple HazeViolettaViolet Queen, and Astro — were a sellout. Bright yellow glads — Golden StarGolden Age, and an excellent Summerville seedling — were always in more demand than we could supply. 

I lost the election, though 42% isn’t bad for a challenger to a popular incumbent! 

I’m not sure how we did it — it was mainly the achievement of our son Chris — but we had the corms dug on time and all were cleaned and in storage by early December. 

This year we are picking up a number of old-timers to try out and are buying a few interesting newer cultivars. 

We have passed the autumnal equinox and now have 9½ hours of daylight. Spring is coming, and I’m looking forward to energetic summer work in our flower fields. And guess what: there’s no election this year! 

Do I plan to run again in 2006 at the tender age of 81? Time will tell! 

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Notes from Up North, January 2001

You probably know that we feel a strong sense of loyalty to old-time glads. Many of these have helped to support our family and continue to do so. Keeping some varieties going is a piece of cake. Others require some or even a lot of support. 

Silver DollarBibi, and Violet Queen go on from year to year with little or no special help. All three remain very popular with our customers. Early HighlightMelodie (the old Dutch butterfly glad), MaybrideSpring Maid (Summerville’s first introduction), Apricot LustreParty PinkEmpire Yellow, and Golden Star require a fall and/or spring disinfecting dip every few years, but all are doing very well. Friendship, considering its age, is amazingly robust. 

Blue Smoke is well worth the extra effort needed to maintain its health. We have discarded Picardy, since a dozen or so blossoms this year were all virus-infected. We still have a few Tartarian, but will discard it since Stromboli and Pierre are similar in color but both are much better quality. A few each of King DavidFrisky, and Black Lash are still in our collection and we have a good supply of Witch Doctor

Of course we have discarded or simply lost a number of old-timers. Domino (the Statuette seedling) is barely holding on. We harvested one small bulb of Domino this year. 

You have a real sense of achievement when you succeed in reviving a variety you had thought to be extinct. Two years ago we found a small bag of fairly ancient Little Mo bulblets. We planted them in 2000, and several germinated. This past summer we harvested several blossoms. Yes, these were reallyLittle Mo, which I recall was high in its symposium category for a number of years. 

Have you ever saved and propagated a “mixed in” variety, which you could never identify? We have several hundred ‘Holland Red’, a glad of modest form whose vibrant burgundy color makes it a favorite in our early collection. It appeared in a collection of Dutch butterfly glads which we purchased in 1970. Then there is a nice cream, burgundy and yellow variety which we simply call ‘Butterfly’. It may be nameless, but we like it anyway. 

About five years ago, a large plain-petaled glad of beautiful burnt-yellow color appeared in late August in a planting of First Pink which had long since finished blooming. I was very busy that day, thought, “Rogue glad!”, pulled it up, and discarded it. Many times during that ensuing winter I thought, “What a great color! Why didn’t I save that glad?” 

I described the glad to a number of growers, including Melk, the source of the First Pink bulbs. Nobody could identify it. Last winter I resolved to clean all our First Pink bulbs myself, looking for mix-ins. Three healthy large bulbs were of a much lighter color than the others and were isolated. You can believe that last summer three glads got more attention from me than all our other glads combined. The first two bloomed mid-August and were of a beautiful light yellow color. They were either Aubrey Lane or a twin of Aubrey Lane

Sadly, there was no burnt-yellow glad among them. 

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Notes from Up North, January 2000

This year I resolved to follow Botran directions exactly. So I got out my bag of Botran, with directions on the front. Well, there was no mention of glads and no mention of row treatment. And the suggested formula, 1¾ pounds per 100 imperical gallons of water, was beyond my rather simple-minded approach to gardening. Also, should I follow the directions for peaches or garlic, hydrangea or whatever? 

The heck with it. So I went back to the tried-and-true method of a cupful of Botran to five gallons of water. 

There has always been a problem of small, undissolved flakes of Botran clogging up the watering can nozzle. Well, I didsolve this problem today for the first time. I poured about a gallon of very warm water into a bucket, added a cupful of Botran powder, and then a squirt (around a teaspoonful) of Shaklee’s Basic H as a wetting agent. Then a vigorous stirring and, voilà! Everything was dissolved. 

This created a new problem. Now the solution poured too fast from the watering can, a very painful situation for this economy-minded person of Scottish ancestry. 

Can you picture a 73-year-old man running along the glad rows in order to save a bit of Botran? I told myself, “Apparently you would risk using too little Botran and even having a heart attack, to save a few pennies.” 

Still, as I was lying flat and panting heavily on the fresh greengrass beyond the end of a row, I felt the cool spring Zephyr (the breeze, not the glad) on my sweating forehead. It seemed, despite everything, that life was really great! 

By lunchtime the early field was treated and ready to plant. But there must be an easier way to do this! I have two teenaged daughters, both into high school track. Do you suppose that I could persuade them that running an acre of glad rows with Botran would almost guarantee victory in their races at the state meet? 

At the end of the day, cutflower plantings of Lady Lucille and Florence C. were in the ground, and a good part of our planting stock had been strewn and covered. This makes it all seem worthwhile! 

I notice in Glad World that Talk Radio recommends a drenching with Botran on bulbs, which are in the rows. I have always felt that the roots of the bulbs should go down into Botran-treated soil. Perhaps our method would not work as well in a warmer climate. 

Now, in the January Glad World, the Northwest Ohio newsletter speaks of problems with Botran. Personally, I would never drench bulbs with Botran. A grower friend of mine soaked bulbs in Botran, and the results were catastrophic. Except for a weed problem in one field, our glads were superb in 1999, so perhaps our penny pinching use of Botran has merit, at least for us. Still, it seems that the “Botran users beware!” slogan is warranted. 

We did some things right in the summer of 1999. I had several strategies planned in case the deer raided our fields in early September, as they had in 1998. But the deer had their own strategy which did not involve waiting until September. In early July the first early glads were in bud. The adjoining alfalfa field was lush and green, but our deer had apparently developed gourmet tastes, because one morning I discovered that a large percentage of our Early Highlight buds had been consumed during the previous night. (They might at least have left a tip for the grower of their delicious meal!) 

Time for action, which included spraying the fields’ borders with ‘Hinder’, depositing nylon baggies of human hair here and there (thanks to the local barber), and erecting six scare-deer structures, made of scrap wood and old clothes, in the various glad fields. The result was very effective deer control. 

The serious thrips problem of 1998 simply did not emerge. Apparently our thorough dusting of bulbs after cleaning them, plus the cold outdoor winter weather of 1998-1999 had given effective control. In 1999 I saw only three plants with slight thrip damage. 

Well, there always has to be one major crisis. Our best helper left just before the main weeding season. (Don’t know as I blame him!) Before we knew it the weeds had overwhelmed our midseason glad crop. After some days of a valiant but losing battle, working alone, we were smart enough to abandon the midseason glads and concentrate on weeding the late, salvageable crop, and so the likes of Summer RoseAnna LeorahVega, and Janus saved the season for us. Round Up sprayed low on emerging weeds was invaluable, although it did cause a few leathery blooms, perhaps the result of spraying too close. Some florists really liked our leathery ‘lily glads’, as they called them. 

The summer of 1999 saw Lady Lucille in commercial production for the first time. You know that a cultivar has commercial merit when certain florists, for the first time ever, start asking for a glad by name! If Lady Lucille has any drawback commercially it is in the fact that it is a long-season bloomer. (If you need a fast-blooming cultivar in the same color range, try another beauty, Anna Leorah. Its shorter flowerhead is plenty long for most florist use.) Lady Lucille‘s long season has a real advantage for showing purposes. No matter when the show is held, you should have a few excellent spikes of Lady Lucille available. 

Old-timers redeveloping healthy commercial stock in 1999 included Golden StarApricot Lustre, and Party Pink. A very pretty 1998 introduction, Chloe’s Dream, became much more interesting when it turned out to be a first early bloomer! 

What a vintage year for new introductions! Many new cultivars that we tried out were superb, but I’ll mention only the ones that we liked best. Replica seemed even better than its sister Ocean Breeze. It is more yellow, and we think, more a true miniature. Our second top 1999 favorite was Calista from Bates. The two spikes we had were close to perfection. 

Other new varieties which were superb for us, were Mirror ImageMillenniumMarj S., and Bobbie Ann. My daughter Margaret really liked the novelty glad, Wild Thing

Phantom from Frazee deserves special mention. I wrote on the stake, “Stunning! Everyone should grow this glad!”Norma J. lived up to its great reputation. 

We are looking forward to the season of 2000, and I’m convinced that many spikes of breathtaking beauty will more than make up for the seemingly inevitable catastrophes. I wish you all much pleasure and satisfaction with our great flower. 

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Notes from Up North, January 1997

If you are selling glads commercially, color becomes your prime focus. This doesn’t mean that show-type mechanics are unimportant to accomplish floral designs. They love glads which face well, have good placement, a long, wiry stem, and such features as good substance, ruffling, needle-pointing… in short, style. But color is paramount. Thus, some varieties which could never make it as show glads are highly successful as commercial varieties. 

Don Curtis correctly discarded Golden Age. It just doesn’t have the stretch to make it in a show. But that rich golden color! The florists love it, and so do I. Violet Queen, now there’s an old-timer! I got it, perhaps in 1971, from Lawrence Page. It is surely flawed, mechanics-wise, with at least 10% crooked. But a good Violet Queen is one of the best in its class, color-wise. Nacarat will probably never be a great show glad, but large bulbs produce great commercial blooms because of that intensive, psychedelic orange brilliance. Poco is perhaps my favorite miniature. Many others have far better mechanics, but Poco has that startling purple and white combination which makes it impossible for me to resist its charm. 

Of course, there are glads which combine outstanding color value with great mechanics. Miss Formality has an excellent potential as a show winner, but it is the variety’s radiant medium lavender color which makes it one of my favorites. I am sure that Lady Lucille will be a truly outstanding show-winner and commercial cutflower success. It has all the mechanics of a good show glad and its sparkling medium pink color (much like that of Anna Leorah) looks at you and says, “Hey, it’s a great day to be alive!” 

If we were closer to last summer, I would have many more color-supreme varieties in mind but, well, then this article would be much too long. It will suffice to mention just a few more varieties, such as Dana Summerville’s yellow Carioca sport: tall, brilliant yellow with that pleasing double soft red blotch in the throat. I hope Dana makes that one available to the general public. 

Blue Grotto, modest in size, with good show mechanics, is a very pleasing medium blue with a creamy white throat. Unfortunately, it’s an aggravation to propagate! After fifteen years we finally have 200 or so bulbs. Sunsport doesn’t have the intense shade of Golden Age, but somehow it is one of the most pleasant glads in its class. 

Then there is Ebony Beauty. My daughter Margaret has visions of winning top show prizes with her favorite glad. It will probably never happen (Margaret says, “It won the children’s class!”). Still, the intense deep black-red shade of this glad is truly outstanding! 

No article on color would be complete without mention of that true color classic, Blue Smoke. The startling contrast between its lavender smoky petals and apricot throat makes it the absolute favorite of most florists. 

Back when Friendship first came out in the 1940s, Carl Fischer described it something like this: “Radiant, and sparkling with dew in the freshness of a summer morning.” (I hope Carl will forgive my faulty memory!) Friendship‘s color wasn’t quite that good, but Carl had the right idea. 

There’s something about great color in a glad, or any flower which elicits a refreshing spiritual response. As you can plainly see, I am addicted to sparkling radiance of color in glads. Furthermore, I don’t even want to consider being cured of this addiction. 

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Notes from Up North, January 1996

It always seemed to me to be a minor scandal that so many new glad varieties were introduced each year. Why this inflation of new introductions, most of which will be forgotten in ten years, while others will have crowded out old-timers as good as, or better than the ‘upstarts’? I’m sure we have all spent good, hard-earned dollars purchasing the newest sensations, only to be sadly disappointed because of some flaw related to color, attachment, health, or straightness. Sometimes a highly touted newcomer just doesn’t ring a bell with us, and for no definable reason. 

Back in the 1940s, Bengasi was a true sensation. That picture in the New England yearbook was simply breathtaking: tall, straight, with ruffled, needle-pointed, perfectly placed florets. How this teenaged glad grower wished he had the $7.50 necessary to purchase this horticultural marvel which could only have been lowered to earth by the gods of Valhalla. 

Maybe that was the only flawless specimen of Bengasi. At any rate, a year later the same yearbook spoke, chuckling, of the ‘affectionate’ glad. It seems that Bengasi crooked so badly that the stems of neighboring spikes literally wrapped themselves around each other as if in loveing embrace. 

Experience of the last few years has made me change my attitude regarding the number of new introductions. In fact, I’m now wondering why there are so few. 

A few years ago I received, almost by accident, fifty unbloomed seedlings by an Illinois glad grower named Homer Marti. (I’m sure he was more than a little startled when he later received a report on his seedlings from a complete stranger in Maine.) 

Homer must be a respectable hybridizer, because of the fifty seedlings we are still propagating twenty, and one, maybe two look to be outstanding. This has brought me to the assumption that there must be literally thousands of really good new seedlings blossoming every year. So how do the cataloguers maintain the discipline needed to hold the number of new introductions down at such a low level? 

So… the cataloguer has his work cut out for him, choosing between prospective glad greats. After his (or her) work is done, we growers have a job that is every bit as important. We reevaluate the new glads, and this happens all over the country, under vastly different growing conditions. 

I don’t consider that a glad has really made it in our fields until I am satisfied with a commercial planting of at least several hundred bulbs. Then follows a sort of personal ‘re-introduction’ of that variety into a higher level of respect. 

This year, several newer and not so new varieties made it. Just a few names: TantasticPulchritudePeerlessMiss Blue, and Dusty Rose. Many others are really looking good, though stock is still too small for a final judgement: First SnowMiss FormalityRuffled VelvetFirst KissCarved Ivory, and Blue Grotto, which is finally multiplying. First blossoms of Michael B.Blue LadySorcerorSunsport, and Tiger Paws were most impressive. But who trusts his judgement after first impressions? 

Getting back to the sensational dud of the 1940s, Bengasi, I’ll bet that glad was highly respectable in the originator’s garden. Its flaws probably became obvious under different growing conditions. 

Anyone still have a bulb? I’d like to give it a try!