American Gardening 15(497): 457-458 (August 13, 1904)

The Story of the Gladiolus and its Garden Forms

Gladiolus princeps is the latest acquisition among garden hybrids of this genus. Four species have helped in its production, as may be seen from the annexed genealogical table. It appears to us to be of interest to trace also at the same time the genealogy of our cultivated Gladioli, concerning the origin of which M. Krelage published an account in 1897.

Although the genus Gladiolus is one of those concerning which we have much information, yet some doubt still exists as to the origin of certain hybrids. In the first place the parentage of G. gandavensis is not clearly established. Van Houtte exhibited it in 1841 as a hybrid between G. psittacinus and G. cardinalis, and certainly he is an authority to be considered. Nevertheless, according to the article by Mr. Krelage, Mr. Herbert, for two reasons, has expressed a doubt in the matter.

The first reason is that numerous crossings made in this direction were without result; the second, that Herbert, on the other hand, having crossed G. psittacinus with G. oppositiflorus, obtained a plant exactly similar to that figured in "La Flore des Serres et des Jardins," as G. gandavensis. In the light of this contradiction, and of the different opinions of two such competent horticulturists, doubt may well be permitted, and it is for this reason that we have in our genealogic table indicated G. gandavensis as the result of G. psittacinus fertilized by G. cardinalis (?) or by G. oppositiflorus (?). It would be very interesting to definitely elucidate this.

Again, a very interesting article, attributed to M. Bellair, on the origin of the Gladioli, contains a small inaccuracy concerning G. Childsii, and which, supported by the authority of Max Leichtlin—the producer of this hybrid—I take the liberty of bringing to notice. G. Childsii is the product of G. Saundersii x G. gandavensis, and not of G. nanceianus x G. gandavensis as M. Bellair asserts, which is as good as saying that G. Childsii is more directly the issue of G. Saundersii than M. Bellair thought. This correction has its importance from the point of view of the genealogy of G. princeps. Here, again, is an interesting note. M. Krelage gives G. turicensis (obtained by M. Froebel) as identical with G. Childsii of M. Max Leichtlin. Now, according to the information which I have gathered, G. Childsii is a hybrid between G. gandavensis and G. Saundersii. If, therefore, the order in which M. Krelage gives the parents of G. turicensis is exact (G. gandavensis x G. Saundersii), these two Gladioli are the issue of the same parents, but by crossings operated in inverse order. In any case it is G. Childsii, and not G. turicensis, which has helped to produce this beautiful novelty of large size and brilliant coloring.

The honor of producing this hybrid belongs to an American—Dr. Van Fleet, of Little Silver. It is now more than twenty-five years ago since Gladiolus cruentus, originally from South Africa, was sent to Mr. William Bull by a Swiss living in the Drakensberg in Natal where it was figured in the Botanical Magazine. But the specimens sent did badly, and M. Max Leichtlin (from whom I obtained these details), who was the only one to have the plant in its full beauty, gave it to Dr. Van Fleet. The latter, under the propitious climate of North America, obtained excellent results with it, and crossed it with G. Childsii. I am sure he himself must have been astonished at the result. The hybrid Gladiolus, to which he has given the very appropriate name of princeps, is remarkable for the rich scarlet-red of its flowers, by their size, and by their beautiful form surpassing any with which we are at present acquainted. The petals are very large, and their bright coloring is intensified by slight white spots, often accompanied by a median line of the same color on the inferior and lateral divisions. These latter are larger and not so spreading as in G. nanceianus.

Gladiolus princeps does not bloom until August and September, in this respect resembling G. cruentus, that is to say, it is at its best, when other Gladioli are almost or entirely passed. This is another point in its favor. On the other hand, its flowering is continuous, and it never has more than three or four blossoms. open at the same time. But what does it matter if quality compensates for quantity. It is, unfortunately, an inexorable law of nature that the size of flowers shall be in inverse ratio to their number. From the decorative point of view the effect is almost the same, and when the blooms are cut the advantage rests with G. princeps. The variety so far stands alone in this series. M. Max Leichtlin, that indefatigable worker, has tried many crosses, but red continues to predominate in the seedlings, and will not go beyond orange-tinted scarlet in the scale of clear color.. We need not, however, despair, and I shall be much surprised if a few years hence we have not new colors in G. princeps.— Ph. de Vilmorin, in La Revue Horticole.

Their Qualities and Features

In connection with the interesting account of the descent of the several groups of Gladiolus hybrids which is translated from the French of Mr. Ph, de Vilmorin, we present a series of photographs showing the types in their average form. In these portraits strains only are pictured-the question of varieties in each strain has been ignored, the only object being the portrayal of the character of the strains.

Princeps, raised by Dr. Van Fleet, is remarkable for the brilliancy of its coloring (red and white markings). The individual flowers are very large, and are produced about three at one time. It flowers late. So far the form figured is the only one of the strain from which, however, developments may be expected in the future.

Lemoinei, the earliest flowering type, sometimes called the butterfly or orchid Gladiolus as the colors are so bright, has flowers showing wonderful contrasts in color, being marked and spotted beyond description. The form of flower is generally hooded, but in some varieties this is not seen.

Gandavenis, the first of the hybrid groups, is valuable and always gives satisfaction on account of the solid colors and compact appearance. This type is late and is invaluable for garden purposes and for decorative use.

Childsi, the most valuable hybrid so far produced, is of recent introduction and contains some of the largest and most magnificent flowers of all, allowing the widest range of colors and variegations running from white to almost black and including among recent seedlings deep violet, also purple. One hundred and twenty distinct varieties have been named.

Nanceianus is a type remarkable for its wide spreading flowers, petals well expanded and having the greatest range of coloring, the weakness of the group being in the tendency to make a one-sided spike of loose habit. This and the Childsi group flower about the same time and are intermediate in season.

Of the true species which enter into these flowers G. dracocephalus is the base. It is shown in one of our pictures. The flowers are of a coppery color in mass, being lurid yellow, streaked and splashed with brown-red. G. Saundersii has red flowers, expanding like a small nanceianus, and from these two the several garden hybrids have taken their characters. Cruentus, which helped to make the princeps, is also bright red.

No word upon the Gladiolus hybrids would be complete without mention of the "Groffs hybrids." These are a conglomerate blend of what their maker considered to be the best of all the other hybrid sections, Mr. Groffs' great object having been to get as far away as possible from the species in all cases. Color has been his main guide. As a result of the work all the different garden groups crop out in their season and looked at at different times, a resemblance to each type is recognized.

The Gladiolus in masses is a most effective flowering plant, and our preference is for a thorough mixture. The harlequin effect thus produced against the backing of green is very pleasing. We saw whole fields of such at J. L. Child's grounds last week—thirty acres and more in individual fields. Color galore was here and the bizarre brightness of the whole was simply a delight. L. B

Types I Types II Types III Types IV Types V
Gandavensis Childsi Lemoinei Nanceianus Dracocephalus Childsi Groff's Hybrids Princeps