The florist went above and beyond in creating the most exquisite bouquets. I think it was because I told her I didn’t mind if she had to use green gladioli in the event that the peridot green cymbidium orchids were not available.
It was my wedding and I was no bridezilla. I just wanted to be surrounded by things I loved, and I loved green and I loved flowers; including the so-called unfashionable Gladiis. Judging by her excitement (and relief) the flexibility I had granted her to use the sheath flowers was unusual for brides of new millennium weddings. Gladiis were the old-timers flower, they were the choko of the vegetable world, not contemporary enough for the 2000 noughties.
And so it was with genuine glee that just the other day I noticed the long stalk of a lone gladiolus in my front garden. It had stood tall but the weight of the 8 buds running along the top of the sword-like length made the stem start to bow. Bending and bobbing in the breeze, the long slices of the smooth, flat, green leaves contrasting the jagged and sharp spikes of the prickly cycads that grew behind.
It was during the days of the Brisbane drought that I had designed my garden with a focus on water conservation. Plants were selected for their hardiness, their tolerance and their low maintenance. Council median strips and round-a-bouts were used as inspiration and I had struck dracaenas and broken up deities, ribbon plants and Lomandra grasses to fill out the beds that bordered the pavers of the front path. But that was 10 years ago and thus the surprise to see the traditional and out-of-vogue Gladii flower in the middle of the dusty and dry chip bark bed.
The flower was no doubt a remainder of the spectacular but water sucking and high maintenance garden of our home’s previous owner, Bruce. There had been rows of gerberas lining the front of the property and narcissus bulbs of daffodils and freesias popped up in clumps under the fronds & flowers of the Geisha bush. No doubt, the corms of the perennial Gladii had lay dormant, stored beneath the ground until the flower decided to strike, cutting high into the air. It was undeniably exciting to watch the delicate buds start to open and see the soft lemon petals peeping through the translucent green leaf. It was as much a delight as the random sweet potatoes we still reaped from the earth in the back yard, leftovers from Bruce’s veggie patch.
This Gladii was a lovely flower, the friendly yellow a sign of friendship. How can you not love a flower that stands for strength of character, remembrance, faithfulness and integrity? Yes, they could be stiff and dominant with carnations, chrysies and baby’s breath in the asymmetrical arrangements that stood on heavy pedestals on church altars. Yes, they often graced the top of coffins and yes, they were thrown into crowds by a Dame wearing dated wing tipped, cat glasses, blingy gowns and lilac hair, making the flower a star in bold acts of satire. But the Gladii is also sleek; it has the line of contemporary elegance. It has a history of medicinal use, it’s the floral symbol for the 40th wedding anniversary and the official flower of Elmira Ontario in Canada. Van Gogh painted them! The August flower, is amazing in it’s own right.
I cut my garden’s floral treasure down low on the stalk and placed the single stem in a vintage Shandos soft drink bottle, bought from one of the many shops in the Centre. I placed it on an old stool next to my desk where she stretched out to frame my old Weetbix tin and my 2017 Mac, balancing the old and new.
Mother Nature’s vintage at its best.