A Brief History of the Maine Gladiolus Society

Although gladiolus were valued by Mainers as a garden and cut-flower for several decades before and after the turn of the 20th century, it wasn't until the late 1930s that two sisters from central Maine began seriously contributing to the New England Gladiolus Society's activities; by these actions, the seeds of the Maine Gladiolus Society were planted.

Maine hybridizers and sellers existed despite the lack of a gladiolus society. Mainers advertized their bulbs in NEGS' The Gladiolus, but New England's biggest sellers of corms, Gove and Hatch, were not from Maine -- they were based in Vermont, and neither of them seemed too interested in the creation of a gladiolus society in Maine -- as long as sales quotas were reached, whether or not a person was in touch with other glad fanciers in Maine was unimportant.

This is where those two sisters come in. In the late 1930s, Madeline Jones Walenta, from South China, started writing truly elegant pieces for The Gladiolus annual. She and her sister, Virginia Jones, had been growing glads for years. In 1939, they decided to travel to Boston to enter spikes in the NEGS show. The next year, they pulled other growers (including the legendary Allen Karnes, from Skowhegan) together to form the MGS.

Maine Gladiolus Society shows have been held every year since 1940, with the exception of 1943, when it, along with many shows nationwide, was cancelled due to gas rationing. Since 1941, "The Glad Book" has been published every year except 1968. Between 1945 and the early 1960s, the Society experienced phenomenal growth. By that time, we were printing 400 copies of "The Glad Book" -- in 1960, it was over 100 pages. The 1962 "Glad Book" published dues-paying membersí names and addresses; there were over 250, which did not take into account the many honorary memberships.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the large MGS show rotated among the armories in South Portland and Augusta, and the field house at UMaine Orono. Legendary professor of English at UMaine, Cecil J. Reynold, was editor of "The Glad Book" for several years. In addition to the main show, there was a seedling show, usually held at a memberís home in southern Maine early in August and, for many years, a second major show at the Blue Hill Fair around Labor Day. The season ended with a picnic, with judging of spikes, most often at the Karnesí home in Skowhegan.

Commercial growers' displays would often surround the spikes, arrangements, and baskets at the big shows, beyond the hundreds of spikes, arrangements. These growers included Arenius, Flying Cloud, Gove, and often more. There were exhibitors from New Brunswick, Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even Pennsylvania at MGS shows.

Other notable members of the Maine Gladiolus Society include:

Eva J. Storey, whose glads dominated the sweepstakes at state shows for years, managing even to fight off the Adams family invasion on that front many years. Evaís obituary appears in this edition of the Glad Book. She did her own work, assisted by her husband.

Dr. Alice North, a physician of some local renown, who dominated the Blue Hill shows -- with stiff competition from Don Clendenning -- and did well at the big ones, too. A very talented professional gardener did all of the actual work.

Ella Wright registered and introduced a buff sport of Picardy (The Pearl) in 1950. In the 70s, Nellie Carter, from Gardiner, became the first Maine woman to register and introduce a seedling, an exotic.

Don Curtis, whose hybridizations include the beautiful Muriel and the flashy Abbie seedling, Copperhead.

Paul Cates, a small-time commercial grower and recent hybridizer whose annual several buckets of contributions still flesh out the annual MGS show.

Bob and Dorothy Martin, hybridizers who more or less were the Maine Gladiolus Society for many decades, thanks to their hard work in organizing auctions, shows, and other activities.

By the 1970s, "The Glad Book" was back to 32 pages, thanks to costs of printing and postage, as well as a declining membership. These problems have only continued; these days the page count in "The Glad Book" is at an all-time low. However, the Maine Gladiolus Society has retained its vigor, and can be a beacon for New Hampshire, Vermont, and even the Maritimes. There are no longer shows in Quebec or the Maritimes, in NH, VT, or eastern Massachusetts(!).

Maine is it.

All of us who read this wonít have another seventy years, but the Maine Gladiolus Society just might.