Are you ready for battle? Because gladiolis are. These towering, dramatic blooms add stature to our arrangements every summer, and it turns out, they stand tall for a reason. With a fascinating history behind each stem (that makes so much sense the more you look at them) here’s everything you need to know about this much-loved warrior…
Where are gladioli from?
If you’ve ever thought these tall, brightly-coloured flowers looked like warrior’s spears… well you wouldn’t be far off. Their name comes from the Latin for ‘sword’ and were thrown in Gladiator arenas, over the victorious fighter.
But their history goes back even further than that. Many consider the mention of ‘lilies of the field’ in the Bible as the earliest known reference to the flower, with many of the oldest species being found in Africa and Asia.
In 16th century Europe a mashed gladiolus root was used to draw out splinters and thorns, and if you want further evidence that a lover can also be a fighter, Legend has it, the spikiness of the flower was meant to pierce the heart of its recipient with love – which is why it’s often associated with infatuation.
Due to their rich history, the gladioli is often associated as being a slightly ‘old fashioned’ flower and in the late 19th and 20th century women would use them – and their variety of hues – to create a wall of colour alongside the back edge of their gardens. But Morrissey is responsible for giving the beloved gladioli a more modern, cooler edge. As in the 80s The Smith’s front man would take to the stage swinging a bunch of gladiolis around as he performed before eventually throwing them into the crowd for it fans. Why was he so attracted to the flower? He once said that gladiolis “leapt out” at him and “seemed really powerful”. We have to agree!
What do gladioli symbolise?
Just like Spartacus (and… other gladiators though we don’t know many personally) the gladioli represents honour, faithfulness, strength of character, moral integrity and faithfulness. Coupling these strong long-lasting traits with their links to infatuation (remember, the piercing of the heart?!) is why they’re the 40th anniversary flower.
However, each individual colour of gladioli represents something different:
Red: No prizes for guessing that red = romance. The red gladioli symbolises passion and love and make for a great roses alternative on Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversaries and birthdays.
White gladiolis symbolise purity and spirituality. They are the often gifted at weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies.
Yellow and orange These cheerful stems are often used to communicate well wishes and congratulations as they symbolise positivity, happiness and friendship.
Purple gladiolis are symbolic of grace, nobility, and beauty, and are usually gifted in celebration of a new job or a new home.
Pink gladiolis look so pretty and are representative of femininity, gentleness and love particularly a Mother’s love, making them a gorgeous gift on Mother’s Day, date nights, or birthdays.
How do gladiolis grow?
Their flowers bloom from the bottom up, on both sides of the stem and you can carefully remove the lower flowers as they start to turn. This will give more power to the top of the flower, making your arrangement last longer.
What are gladiolis matched with in an arrangement?
We’re not sure how it’s possible that a flower can have better posture than we have, but the gladioli do… they add radiance, height and drama to all arrangements, and work beautifully on their own. However, as they come in so many colours we love to mix it up and pair them with suitable blooms. However, as the gladioli can be a show stealer we ensure that they’re placed with an equal match… roses, chrysanthemums, lilies and aster all hold their own and won’t get lost amidst the mighty gladioli.
Because of their height (in garden gladioli can grow up to 6ft tall!) they won’t work in a shorter vase, so we’ve designed taller vases that won’t crowd or box these warriors in.
Why we love gladiolis…
These blooms take Freddie back to when he used to visit little French markets, and would be given his flowers to take away in elegant, brown paper. It’s why today we wrap our flowers in similar lovely brown paper, to give you a taste of those charming markets (without the air fair.)
As gladiolis are our favourite summer flower, for their towering elegance and array of colours, as soon as they’re in season we want our customers to know about it. Unlike supermarket flowers where poor gladioli can sit waiting in a bucket for days, our gladioli come straight from the field. They’ll be in your homes within 24 hours of being selected. That means these feisty flowers will cheer you up for much longer, you can’t walk into a room without spotting them.
Where we grow them…
We work closely with growers in the UK and the Netherlands to source the flowers we need for our glorious arrangements, only occasionally looking further afield. It has been a joy working with them year on year, and as our volume and scale has increased they’ve stepped right up. Here’s a bit more about some of our growers…