Every summer a long green shoot pokes up out of the pot on my balcony and brings forth flowers. It only does this once - last year in August, this year about a month earlier. A string of red buds appears, each encased in green, and slowly, in turn, each unfurls.
A highly predictable sequence ensues, as each day one more flower opens, then three days later closes for the night and slowly shrivels. Equally predictably, somewhere around day two, the whole stalk topples over and snaps. And then I have to rescue the flapping flower by making a clean break and bringing it indoors to live out the rest of its life in a vase. Every bloody year.
I should get a cane or something to support my gladiolus as it grows. But every year its growth spurt catches me unawares, and anyway who pops down to the garden centre midweek for a single stick? I did look round the flat this year in case I had some other long, thin but rigid household implement that might double as scaffolding, but no, it's not a likely thing to have stashed away.
Then this year something unusual happened, in that the plant seemed finally capable of supporting its own weight. It rose almost vertical from the soil and brought forth one, two, three of the anticipated half a dozen blooms without falling. I was quite excited. Had the plant finally learned not to extend too far, or was one year's additional growth finally enough to shift its centre of gravity? Whatever, it looked like I might finally get to see all six flowers open in situ, as nature intended, without a calamity occurring.
Not so. On Wednesday afternoon a windy interlude proved too much for the ever-extending plant, and I caught a flash of red out of the corner of my eye as the stalk descended. I sighed and went to check the damage, and yes, the fold was too great to leave the thing in situ. So I filled up my emergency vase with water and inside the gladiolus came, as every previous year.
And there it is today, over by the window, living out the remainder of its life cycle as a prize cutting rather than a living plant. Bloom one has already shrivelled and bloom two is going the same way. Blooms three and four were yesterday's proper pair, whereas today four and five are in their prime, and six is on the verge of opening. Shame I'll miss it.
I'm leaving London for a few days, like you do, which should be just long enough for death to creep its way up the stalk and extinguish the entire display. So I thought I'd share a photo from earlier in the week so that my gladdy at least gets a virtual audience over the weekend rather than withering alone. Treat the image as a sort of intermission, if you would, if that's OK with you.