Colour/color Digital painting by J. McCombie.
Acidanthera is a summer flower so fragrant, exotic-looking and lovely that it defies logic. No rare pearl of great price, this summer bloomer is affordable, readily available and practically idiot-proof to grow.
One thing that’s not so simple is what to call it. Officially, the flower is now called Gladiolus callianthus or Gladiolus callianthus murielae. But you will still often find it for sale as Acidanthera (or maybe Acidanthera bicolor or Acidanthera murielae). It’s also sometimes called Abyssinian gladiolus, even Peacock Orchid! Most often it is simply acidanthera.
It’s odd, actually, that acidanthera should land a home in the gladiolus family for it bears so little resemblance to this more famous flower relation. Where the glad is somewhat stiff and upright, acidanthera is loose and bobbing. You might think of acidanthera as the glad family’s renegade cousin. This summer bloomer is not stately, it’s graceful and sexy!
But, whatever you call them, it was clearly more difficult to name these beauties than it is to grow them!
Acidanthera is a bulb. Not a hardy bulb like a spring-blooming tulip or daffodil, but a tender summer bulb – the kind you plant in spring to bloom in summer. They’re also antique, having first been introduced to ecstatic gardeners in 1896! Acidanthera is heavenly in the garden or as a large container plant. It boasts broad star-shaped flowers with glistening white petals surrounding a mysterious dark purple-burgundy throat. Each fragrant flower bobs atop a slim two-foot tall stem flanked by a flurry of supple sword-shaped leaves. The flowers nod on arching stems, scenting soft breezes in mid-to late summer with a primrose-like fragrance so lovely it stops conversations.