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 1997

If you are selling glads commercially, color becomes your prime focus. This doesn't mean that show-type mechanics are unimportant to accomplish floral designs. They love glads which face well, have good placement, a long, wiry stem, and such features as food substance, ruffling, needle-pointing... in short, style. But color is paramount. Thus, some varieties which could never make it as show glads are highly successful as commercial varieties.

Don Curtis correctly discarded Golden Age. It just doesn't have the stretch to make it in a show. But that rich golden color! The florists love it, and so do I. Violet Queen, now there's an old-timer! I got it, perhaps in 1971, from Lawrence Page. It is surely flawed, mechanics-wise, with at least 10% crooked. But a good Violet Queen is one of the best in its class, color-wise. Nacarat will probably never be a great show glad, but large bulbs produce great commercial blooms because of that intensive, psychedelic orange brilliance. Poco is perhaps my favorite miniature. Many others have far better mechanics, but Poco has that startling purple and white combination which makes it impossible for me to resist its charm.

Of course, there are glads which combine outstanding color value with great mechanics. Miss Formality has an excellent potential as a show winner, but it is the variety's radiant medium lavender color which makes it one of my favorites. I am sure that Lady Lucille will be a truly outstanding show-winner and commercial cutflower success. It has all the mechanics of a good show glad and its sparkling medium pink color (much like that of Anna Leorah) looks at you and says, "Hey, it's a great day to be alive!"

If we were closer to last summer, I would have many more color-supreme varieties in mind but, well, then this article would be much too long. It will suffice to mention just a few more varieties, such as Dana Summerville's yellow Carioca sport: tall, brilliant yellow with that pleasing double soft red blotch in the throat. I hope Dana makes that one available to the general public.

Blue Grotto, modest in size, with good show mechanics, is a very pleasing medium blue with a creamy white throat. Unfortunately, it's an aggravation to propagate! After fifteen years we finally have 200 or so bulbs. Sunsport doesn't have the intense shade of Golden Age, but somehow it is one of the most pleasant glads in its class.

Then there is Ebony Beauty. My daughter Margaret has visions of winning top show prizes with her favorite glad. It will probably never happen (Margaret says, "It won the children's class!"). Still, the intense deep black-red shade of this glad is truly outstanding!

No article on color would be complete without mention of that true color classic, Blue Smoke. The startling contrast between its lavender smoky petals and apricot throat makes it the absolute favorite of most florists.

Back when Friendship first came out in the 1940s, Carl Fischer described it something like this: "Radiant, and sparkling with dew in the freshness of a summer morning." (I hope Carl will forgive my faulty memory!) Friendship's color wasn't quite that good, but Carl had the right idea.

There's something about great color in a glad, or any flower which elicits a refreshing spiritual response. As you can plainly see, I am addicted to sparkling radiance of color in glads. Furthermore, I don't even want to consider being cured of this addiction.



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