Garden and Forest 9(454) : 446 (Nov 4, 1896)
The Origin of Garden Gladioli
Ernst H. Krelage, Haarlem, Holland,

THE praise given to Gladiolus Nanceianus by your London correspondent in GARDEN AND FOREST for 7th October, is well deserved, and I think it may interest your readers to hear something more about the origin of this and other remarkable garden races of this noble genus.

The Gladioli of gardens may be distinguished in an early-flowering and an autumn-flowering group. The large group of early Gladioli embraces innumerable forms of species and hybrids, where, among the most common types, are the Cape species Gladiolus blandus, G. cardinalis and G. tristis, and the hybrids G. ramosus (Cardinalis x oppositiflorus), G. Colvillei (tristis x cardinalis), etc. I cannot treat this section in detail now, and will only say that one of the most useful new additions to it is the soft rosy pink Cardinalis variety, Queen Wilhelmina, which has been highly spoken of in various gardening papers.

The late-flowering Gladioli have so improved of late that the original species have become very insignificant, compared with the garden hybrids of their progeny. Five distinct races of autumn-flowering hybrid Gladioli have been sent out up to the present, an abbreviated description of which may follow here:

1. GLADIOLUS HYBR. GANDAVENSIS.—This section is well known, although there is still some doubt as to its exact origin. The first announcement of the original hybrid appeared in Van Houtte's Catalogue, No. 6, which was published on August 31st, I84I. There are two opinions as regards the origin of this hybrid. In the Flore des Serres, published by Van Houtte himself, it is stated to be the result of a cross between G. cardinalis and G. psittacinus. On the other hand, we have Dean Herbert's opinion, who found that the indicated cross, "if not absolutely impossible, is so difficult that repeated attempts made during successive, years (by himself and others) have all proved abortive." On the contrary, the Natal species, G. psittacinus and the Caffrarian G. oppositiflorus, have been freely crossed by Herbert and several others, and the result was exactly the same Gladiolus figured in the Flore des Serres as Gandavensis. The hybrid created a sensation, but was, of course, soon surpassed. The most successful raiser of new varieties was Monsieur Souchet, of Fontainebleau, and after his death, in 1872, his successors, Messrs. Souillard and Brunelet.

2. GLADIOLUS HYBR. LEMOINEI.—Some twenty-five years ago a new species of Gladiolus was introduced from the Cape, which proved to be hardy, or, at least, more hardy than the Gandavensis varieties. It was crossed by the skillful hybridizer, Monsieur Lemoine, with the best Gandavensis varieties, and so he obtained the first hybrids of a new race which he called Lemoinei, and which made its appearance at the Paris International Exhibition of 1878. Being pretty well known at present, it does not need description. Every year the colors of the new varieties become more brilliant and effective. It is a pity, however, that the more beautiful the varieties become the more they lose their hardy qualities, a natural consequence of the little purpureo-auratus blood remaining in the progeny.

3. GLADIOLUS HYBR. TURICENSIS AND CHILDSI.—Both of these sections originated in the same manner—namely, by crossing Gladiolus Saundersi, another Cape species, introduced some twenty years ago, with Gandavernsis varieties. G. Turicensis originated in Mr. Froebel's nursery at Zurich. It is probably lost to cultivation now. The history of G. Childsi is rather confused. Many years ago Herr Max Leichtlin made a similar cross as Mr. Froebel, and sold the hybrids obtained to a French nurseryman, from whom they were purchased by an American firm, the stock of which went afterward to Mr. Childs, of Floral Park, who gave them his name and pushed them successfully.

4. GLADIOUS HYBR. NANCEIANUS.—This race, referred to by Mr. Watson on page 403, is of quite different origin from Gladiolus Childsi, and the two races must not be confounded. G. Nanceianus was the first hybrid of a series now comprising some fifty varieties, raised by Monsieur Lemoine, and first presented to the horticultural public at the Paris Exhibition of I889. It originated from a cross between G. Saundersi and Lemoinei varieties, and this origin at once shows that the Nanceianus race is an advance on Turicensis and Childsi, as one of the parents, namely, Lemoinei hybrid, was an advance on one of the parents in the other case (Gandavensis hybrids). A few varieties of the Nanceianus race are not so vigorous as could be desired, but the newer ones especially are strong growers, throwing up spikes six feet tall, carrying large-sized flowers, often measuring more than seven inches across between the tips of the two lateral segments of the corolla, which are developed in the form of two large triangular, fully expanded wings, and the colors are simply marvelous. All the trade varieties hitherto introduced were obtained by Monsieur Lemoine, and we have not seen any hybrids from other origins surpassing them.

5. GLADIOLUS HYBR. MASSILIENSIS.—Although this is one of the newest races offered, it is in no way an advance, which is not surprising when we remember that one of the parents is the very old and ugly Gladiolus psittacinus, which has been improved by hybridizing for fifty years already. We only refer to it here for completeness.

Concluding, I beg to give a little pedigree showing the affinity and origin of the principal races of Gladiolus hybrids referred to above: