Bartlett’s Farm cut flower business began in the 1970s when Dorothy started cultivating a few flower rows. During that time, flower varieties were limited, with only a few simple ones available. Some of the varieties they planted back then, like Zinnias, Marigolds, Cosmos, and Statice, are still grown today. Gladiolas were also present from the start, but back then, they were only available in basic colors such as white, red, pink, and yellow. However, they were a best-seller, with more than 40,000 bulbs (corms) planted annually. Back in those days, the bulbs were saved from year to year, carefully stored in the cooler for use next season.
Originally, Dorothy, Dan, and Dave were responsible for harvesting the gladiolas. In later years, Pete Smith, the longtime Greenhouse Manager, took over the task. In my intern years, 2012-2015, I learned how to harvest flowers with Pete and even after I stepped out of harvesting and bunching the field flowers, I still harvested Glads and Lilies. Pete retired in 2017 and I harvested Glads from then until 2020 when Farmer crew members Xavier and Demitry took it over. Despite the availability of more colors today, like peach, orange, and various shades of pink and purple, gladiolas are considered an “old-fashioned” flower. They still have a devoted following, and people frequently inquire about their availability, but sales are not as high as before. Consequently, Bartlett’s Farm now purchases around 7,000 bulbs annually and sells approximately 4,000 to 5,000 of them. Saving the bulbs is no longer necessary, as they can be easily sourced
The farm obtains its corms from a grower in Three Rivers, Michigan. This family-owned business, now in its third generation, has been supplying gladiola corms since 1953. To secure the best colors and varieties, orders are placed by mid-November. The corms are shipped in mid-May and planted by the end of that month, divided into two crops to extend the season. The gladiolas are directly planted into the ground, and the rows are manually weeded. The flowers will be ready to harvest by mid-July and can last until the end of August, sometimes even until mid-September, depending on weather conditions and available varieties.
One challenge faced in growing gladiolas is the need to rotate the crops in the fields to prevent damage from Thrips and other insects. This year, a new location attracted deer, but fortunately, they have now stopped eating the gladiolas.
Bartlett’s Farm also sells gladiola corms in the Garden Center. They arrive around the end of March, with the best planting time being the beginning of May. Although gladiolas are hardy in zones 8-10, some people in Nantucket, which is zone 7b, have successfully grown them year after year.
At Bartlett’s Farm, the bulb gladiolas have already sold out for the season. However, the harvested stems can be found daily at the Market and the Farm Trucks.
-written by Fernanda Longo, Greenhouse Manager
-edited by Leah Mojer, M & P