Notes from Up North

Although we're not the northernmost supplier of gladiolus in the Western Hemisphere, we're pretty far up there! With that in mind, the annual letter which appears in our catalog is called "Notes from Up North." Generally we convince Paul to write it while Elisabeth and the rest of the Cates Family Glads team work on inventory and creating the price list. It's our way of keeping in touch with our loyal customer base.


January 2006

That was a stunning picture of the new All-American glad, Martha Stewart, on the cover of Glad World. It looked to have the mechanics of Madeson's Deanna, with the color of driven snow. But where could one get corms? None of the cataloguers we know even listed it. You'd think that Martha Stewart was controversial or something! Personally, I admire Martha Stewart -- the lady -- whose life is a remarkable story of lifting oneself up by the bootstraps.

Lo and behold, two small lots of three bulbs each, of Martha Stewart, appeared at our auction. I was a determined bidder, but every bid was topped by an unknown gentleman in the back of the room. I finally made the high bid, considerably above the All American fixed price. Of course, I allowed the other bidder to have the second lot. On the way down to lunch I asked him why he was so determined to get that glad. "Oh," he said, "it's a joke. My daughter can't stand that woman!" Some joke. It cost me big bucks!

May was literally a washout! Rain, rain, rain. We had planted 90% of our glad bulbs on well-drained land in early April, but our small annual (non-glad) flowers were in big trouble. Every time we were ready to plant, the garden turned into a swamp.

The "glad catastrophe" happened on a pleasant June afternoon. While cultivating the early glad field, I hit a rock and turned, briefly, to see if the cultivator had been damaged. No problem there, but during that brief moment of inattention I had plowed out some very special glads, including Deanna, Royal Spire, and About Face. The moral of this story is, if you have a problem while cultivating, stop the tractor before investigating!

Looking forward to our Maine glad show, my main question was, "Will Martha make it?" When the first bud appeared it seemed to be right on schedule. I cut the spike the day before the show, and on show day Martha was an example of pure floral beauty.

Ralph Knowles, our judge, was once a commercial glad grower and surely Maine's outstanding floral designer of gladiolus arrangements. An NAGC-accredited judge might have discounted Martha for size (grown from a medium-sized bulb). For a floral designer's eye, beauty prevailed, and Martha was named champion against tough competition in the largest class in the show.

The plow-out story had a happy ending. Of course I re-planted the corms, but the mature corms never really recovered. However, the bulblets showed no damage from the mishap, and last week I cut a beautiful Deanna from a bulblet.

Among newer glads, Pillow Talk and Frosty Cardinal (named for a church prelate in northern Alaska?) were outstanding. We managed to secure stock of the old-timer, Inca Chief from Bud Bullard. This late-season large, bright orange is surely a classic! Pink Challenger was much improved in its second year. It has the mechanics of Lady Lucille and the color of Doris Darling.

We hope to list some of these varieties in future years.

Best of wishes from Maine to all you great gladiolus fans!



Previous Letters

2005: "Shortly after the Albany convention I received a call..." [READ MORE]
2001: "We feel a strong sense of loyalty to old-time glads..." [READ MORE]
2000: "This year I resolved to follow Botran directions exactly..." [READ MORE]
1997: "If you're selling glads commercially, color becomes your focus..." [READ MORE]
1996: "It always seemed to me to be a minor scandal..." [READ MORE]