One plant in a batch of about a dozen Gladiolus saundersii seedlings is blooming for the first time, approximately two and a half years from germination. The inflorescence only has one flower open at a time, but I find the swept-back petals and white speckles quite pleasing. Definitely a keeper.
After finding the orange Gladiolus dalenii growing in the woods and becoming aware that not all glads look like the big frilly hybrids, I started a search for other South African species that would be hardy in my garden. Some species I ruled out, because they are winter growers that require mild, wet winters and dry summers. Others are summer growers but would not tolerate our winter cold. G. saundersii seemed an excellent candidate, because it is a summer grower that comes from high altitude in the Drakensberg escarpment where it experiences freezing temperatures and snow during the winter. The only question was whether it would tolerate hot days and warm nights in summer, but so far, so good.
The blooming plant is surprisingly small, and the wiry inflorescence only reaches about two feet tall. I had expected it to be bigger, and perhaps it will grow larger as it matures. If not, it will still be a very appealing plant. I’ll just have to move the plants from their current location at the edge of the garden to a spot at the front of a flowerbed.