Customer Service Question:
“I had no blooms from my Byzantine glads this spring, not even any foliage. I do have gophers. Could they have eaten the bulbs? Thanks, Julia”
Thanks for writing in and asking about your Byzantine gladiolus bulbs. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s very likely that gophers consumed your Byzantine gladiolus bulbs. We had a row of 2,000 beautiful, blooming Byzantine gladiolus bulbs eaten by voles in less than 24 hours. We pulled the striking magenta stalks right out of the ground, foliage and all, only to find the bulbs had vanished. This is most likely what happened to your bulbs.
Byzantine glads are true heirloom bulbs and are extremely reliable in zones 6 and higher. They flourish in our clay soil and are one of the most cold-hardy gladioli that exist. That means that if a Byzantine doesn’t show foliage or bloom in the South-it’s dead or non-existent. Further, glads hardly ever just die on their own – something kills them. The culprit is usually a vole (also knows as a field mouse). Voles eat bulbs, while gophers and moles do not. The following information on voles is from Wikipedia and may be helpful:
“Voles are commonly mistaken for other small animals. Moles, gophers, mice, rats and even shrews have similar characteristics and behavioral tendencies. Since voles will commonly use burrows with many exit holes, they can be mistaken for gophers or some kind of ground squirrel. Voles can create and will oftentimes utilize old abandoned mole tunnels thus confusing the land owner into thinking that moles are active. When voles find their way into the home, they are readily misidentified as mice or young rats. In fact, voles are unique and best described as being a little bit like all the other animals they are so commonly thought to be.
They will readily thrive on small plants. Like shrews they will eat dead animals and like mice or rats, they can live on most any nut or fruit. Additionally, voles will target plants more than most other small animals. It is here where their presence is mostly evident. Voles will readily girdle small trees and ground cover much like a porcupine. This girdling can easily kill young plants and is not healthy for trees or other shrubs.
Voles will often eat succulent root systems and will burrow under plants or ground cover they are particularly fond of and eat away until the plant is dead. Bulbs in the ground are another favorite target for voles; their excellent burrowing and tunnelling gives them access to sensitive areas without clear or early warning. A vole infestation is often only identifiable after they have destroyed a number of plants.“ (Source: “Rodent and Pest Control Products and Solutions”. RodentControl.com. Retrieved 2010-03-19; Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vole)
Some bulbs can skip a year of blooming while remaining alive…they just go dormant (like the red spider lily). Not so with the Byzantine. It is remotely possible that your bulbs could have rotted if they were immersed in standing water multiple times for days-on-end during their non-blooming season. Also, it is very unlikely that a virus killed the bulbs. Bulbs can die from being burned by over-fertilization; but, if that happened, then all other plant life around them would have been killed by nitrogen overdose.
What did we do about the voles? We planted Byzantine gladiolus in black bulb crates made of thick, molded plastic with open slits running across the length of the sides and bottom of the crate. Simply fill the crates with soil and your bulbs, then plant them in the ground to keep track of the bulbs and to keep critters away.
I hope this helps, although it’s not the best news. I would recommend planting in some kind of plastic crates that resemble the ones mentioned above. Thanks for writing in and go get ‘em with bulbs in crates!