Gladiolus xgandavensis
Mon, 22 Aug 2005 11:27:13 PDT
Jim McKenney's interesting discussion of early Gladiolus hybrids
unfortunately misses an important point, which is that both G. psittacinus
and G. primulinus are synonyms of G. dalenii (among some tens of others for
this most-wide-ranging and variable of species). The history and
nomenclature of G. dalenii ( a comparatively recently resurrected name) is
reported on in the two remarkable books that are the core source for modern
knowledge of this amazing genus: 'Gladiolus in Tropical Africa' by Peter
Goldblatt, and 'Gladiolus in Southern Africa', by P. Goldblatt & John

In 'Gladiolus in Tropical Africa', Goldblatt gives a summary of the
development of the garden hybrid gladiolus, indicating that G. x gandavensis
was the product of crossing the big red & orange form of G. dalenii then
known as G. psittacinus, with existing garden hybrids, already a melange of
genes from G. oppositiflorus, G. cardinalis, G. cruentus and possibly
others. So one can surmise that the original Ghent gladiolus were already
diverse in the 1840s when they were distributed by the van Houtte nursery;
it occurs to me that they must be illustrated in the van Houtte catalogue,
and perhaps in their extraordinary serial publication Flore des Serres,
which illustrated the new plants pouring out of the Belgian nurseries at
that time.

In the next 50-60 years more species were added to the mix, including G.
papilio, and one can also imagine the selection for bigger and bigger
flowers from each generation of seedlings, resulting in the blowsy funeral
parlour flowers Jim Shields mentioned. The introduction of the
yellow-flowered G. primulinus (a medium-sized G. dalenii) reputedly from the
Victoria Falls in about 1890, brought not only the colour yellow, soon
absorbed into the mainstream blowsers, but a reversion to a daintier type of
plant. This lineage became known as the Primulinus type and that name is
still in use by gladiolus fanciers to this day. They are much closer to G.
dalenii than the big hybrids, and are often lovely and excellent garden

In my view the plants sold by US nurseries as G. x gandavensis (e.g.
'Boone') are Primulinus cultivars, and I think that they would be best
referred to as hybrid cultivars in the usual way without reference to a
hybrid species name (i.e. Gladiolus 'Boone'). Whatever they are, such plants
are excellent garden plants (though I think my stock of 'Boone' has been
swamped by a pesky peony ('Peachy Rose' for those who know about these
things - rather a nice one, but I prefer the Gladiolus).

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Garden Manager, Colesbourne Gardens

Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP

Tel. 01242 870567
Mobile 07 919 840 063
Fax (Estate Office) 01242 870541

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim McKenney" <>
To: "'Pacific Bulb Society'" <>
Sent: Monday, August 22, 2005 2:35 AM
Subject: Re: [pbs] August in an Indiana Garden

> The old Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (1904) gives the parentage of
> Gladiolus x gandavensis as G. psittacinus x G. cardinalis; an alternative
> parentage is also given: G. psittacinus x G. oppositiflorus. The colors
> given as  "bright shades of red and red-yellow variously streaked and
> blotched". Gladiolus primulinus and its hybrids are not even mentioned in
> this edition.
> In the 1925 edition of the same work, Gladiolus primulinus is described as
> having been discovered in 1887 and first flowered in 1890; the color is
> described as being "clear primrose yellow throughout". The "throughout" I
> think is as significant as the "clear primrose yellow",  since the old
> gandavensis sorts were described as streaked and blotched.
> The second edition discusses nearly forty species of Gladiolus, but
> edition mentions the name Gladiolus dalenii.
> I suspect that the old gandavensis hybrids were very different from the
> primulinus hybrids: the primulinus hybrids created a sensation in the glad
> world around the time of the First World War, and were widely praised for
> their graceful form both of bloom and overall inflorescence and their then
> novel colors.
> I've seen old paintings and old photos of old garden glads and "graceful"
> not the word which comes to mind. Clunky is more like it. The primulinus
> hybrids are nothing like that.
> I have always thought that these pale yellow "hooded" "primulinus" hybrids
> are among the loveliest of hybrid glads.
> In other words, I think gandavensis hybrids and primulinus hybrids are
> distinct groups - or maybe I should say were at one time very distinct,
> because both were long ago swallowed up in the main mass of glad hybrids.
> Several nurseries are selling something they are calling Galdiolus x
> gandavensis, but all of the ones I've seen have been primulinus hybrids
> should I be saying daleni hybrids? Old habits die hard.).
> Do any true Gladiolus x gandavensis hybrids survive? I don't know, but
> had their hayday over 150 years ago, and it seems unlikely. And since
> were continually and enthusiastically re-hybridized during the nineteenth
> century, identifying such a thing with certainty strikes me as really
> daunting.
> Jim McKenney
> Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I'm glad to have
> in the garden.
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