Norman, and His 250 Gladiolas

“Friends are like flowers. They fill the world with beauty.” ~ Celeste Barnard

Gladiolus Manhattan - Longfield GardensGladiola, Manhattan

Good morning, my friends.  Today, I would like to share a story about my dear friend Norman and ‘his’ 250 gladiolas.  So find your coffee/tea.  I believe this post will make you smile and who knows ~ you just may become inspired to plant gladiolas.

Norman was a retired Navy Commander.  I always had a hard time imagining him in that role, as he was a kind, gentle and happy soul.  Not, that Navy Commanders don’t possess these qualities.  However, I think, their position in the military requires a completely different demeanor.  Norman always wore a huge smile and perhaps his gentle way is what made him such a great teacher.  Yes, after his military retirement, his second career was teaching.  He was a special education teacher at the high school where my husband taught. 

Norman became a wonderful friend to my husband and me.  Always offering to help us with any ongoing project we may have undertaken,  showing up on our doorstep when my mom had surgery and I was unable to travel due to a terrible snow storm, and always sharing the goodness from his garden in the form of something delicious or something gorgeous.  Norman taught me a great deal about gardening and became one of my all-time best friends.


“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors.” ~ Mary Cantwell


One early June day, Norman arrived at our home carrying a rather large box.  I poured him his usual large glass of tea and we proceeded to the rockers on the back porch, his favorite spot.  He didn’t seem to be his jovial self this particular day.  But after a bit of conversation, he said, “Sandra, do you like gladiolas?”  When I responded with a ‘yes’, little did I know what was in store for me.  Norman went on to explain he was having knee surgery and gardening would be off limits for him the remainder of the summer.  Then he reached over and picked up the large box and shared the contents ~ 250 gladiola corms.

Probably you are wondering, “Why would anyone order 250 gladiolas?”   Well, you see, Norman had a large farm and had great visions of establishing a ‘come and cut’ area for a wide variety of beautiful blooms.  He had ordered the gladiolas before his knee took a downward turn and not wanting the corms to become soft and rot, he was bringing them to me with hopes I would plant them.  Then in the fall, he planned for us to dig and share the corms.  

Gladiolus My Love - Longfield GardensGladiola, My Love

“Gardeners are some of the loveliest people, I think it comes from being a nurturer, and the nature of patience and acceptance you plant things never knowing exactly how they’ll turn out, it’s kind of a metaphor for life.” ~ Rachel Ashwell

When Norman left that day, Mike became busy with his trusty and well used Troy-Built rototiller, tilling space for 250 gladiolas.  And, I was behind him shaping the rows.  During the next few days, I managed to plant all of the gladiolas, having no idea of the beauty I would soon see.  

Norman’s surgery went well and as the weeks passed, the gladiolas began to peak through the soil.  Under the boiling Virginia sun, our garden quickly became a vast array of color and blooms.  I cut gladiolas by the buckets, filled our home, took them to work, and gave them to everyone I knew.  And, of course, I took them to Norman.  How wonderful it was to see his huge smile again.  To say he was thrilled was a total understatement.

Gladiolus Andrews- Longfield GardensGladiola, Andrews

“The blossoms cannot tell what becomes of its fragrance; and no man can tell what becomes of his influence.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

Gladiolus Jester Gold - Longfield Gardens Gladiola, Jester Gold

I never see a gladiola without thinking of my dear friend.  Norman not only taught me so much about gardening, but by his example, he taught me a great deal about friendship.  Sadly, my friend passed away shortly before we returned to West Virginia.  I miss him to this day and can still hear his laughter and see his huge smile.  Truly, life hands us gifts as we go along.  I will always be grateful for the gift of knowing Norman, our friendship, and the influence he had on my life.  

A few weeks ago we planted several of the brilliant red Manhattan Gladiolas, and they are on their way up.  I will smile and think of my friend when they bloom.  And, perhaps after reading this, you have become inspired to plant a few as well.  Norman would like that. 


“Enduring friendship is a precious perennial that refuses to surrender to the elements. Deep roots of devotion provide beauty and hope throughout life’s darkest seasons. Cherish such blossoms, for their fragrance, is rare.” ~ Greta Crank



Wishing you a day filled with beauty and joy.


Au Revoir,


Authors Notes: A special thanks to my friend, Greta Crank, for graciously allowing me to use her quote.

The Gladiola symbolizes honor and remembrance, strength of character, faithfulness, sincerity, and integrity.

 Images:  Longfield Gardens


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16 Comments on "Norman, and His 250 Gladiolas"

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Pam Richardson
Sandra, I was so thrilled to open up your email this morning and see a post on glads. Your beautiful story of Norman warmed my heart, he truly made the world a better place. I can only imagine seeing the sea of those gorgeous blooms. I planted “My Love” in my cutting garden this year and they do look just like little swords. The images and quotes are so perfect and I love Greta’s quote. I just returned from the garden taking in the amazing fragrance of the daisy gardenias. The first of my day lilies are blooming. Oh, my… Read more »
Penny at Enjoying The Simple Things
Penny at Enjoying The Simple Things

What a wonderful story!

Greta Crank
How greatly I understand and love this blog post, Sandra. We are in the middle of counter-offering on a cottage-style older home in town. The house, itself, is wonderful. Sadly, it has one single azalea bush as landscaping. I had a Realtor friend swing by this weekend to see if she thought our home “showed-well”. When outside, I showed her my flowerbeds and told her the stories behind some of my plants. So many of my flowers represent the Normans in my life: Memories of my mother’s floral birthday gifts–always a surprise and shipped to my door; My sister’s planting… Read more »
Brenda @ It\'s A Beautiful Life

There’s a sweet poignancy to this post, Sandra. I’m overjoyed at the beautiful story about Norman and those gorgeous gladioli. My, they are quite lovely! I felt a pang to hear that Norman is no longer with us, and I can understand how you must miss this very special individual. The hole is always there, isn’t it?

Thank you for sharing this story with us today.
Brenda xox

Rita C at Panoply

What a wonderful story of gardening growing the spirit, Sandra! I have transplanted some flowers to my daughter’s new home from my garden, and have plans to take a few more that were passed along to me form generations ago. Those are some beautiful gladiolas. Do they not need to be staked like dahlias, or do they stand well when planted en masse? I can only imagine that sea of beautiful color of all the 250 in bloom!


This is one of the most beautiful and touching posts I’ve ever read. Norman sounds like the most wonderful man and you and your husband sound as wonderful to agree to his plan. What a joy it has brought you — they are such showy, colorful flowers, you had to be in seventh heaven as they began to bloom. My gran planted glads, too, and they are indeed a stunning flower. All the more so with such memories.


Adorable story and wonderful flowers! Such blessing! Hugs!