Garden Clippings for August 1, 2020
When I was a kid, I remember that Mom was in charge of the Cannas. That doesn’t sound too significant, but when it came to horticulture, Mom wasn’t in charge of much. She was too busy taking care of her 11 children to be bothered with matters concerning the fledging nursery business.
Mom knew everything there was to know about her Cannas. Early in spring, she would go down into the fruit cellar and open up the random boxes and baskets of Canna Lily bulbs. She would sort out the bulbs, separating the healthy from the rotten. If the bulbs were large enough, she would get out a sharp knife and cut them in smaller pieces to gain more Cannas.
She potted them up into used clay pots, gave them a drink, and found space under the bench in the greenhouse to grow them until they were large enough to sell.
Back then, Cannas were a dime a dozen. We could barely give them away because Cannas grew too large for the average flower bed. The City planted dozens in flower gardens dotted throughout the road system, where they grew 6 feet and put on a spectacular mid-summer show.
Cannas have a reputation for being old fashioned, stodgy plants with big leaves and bold blooms that finally appeared at the end of July. They would bloom for a few months and then succumb to frost, at which time they needed to be dug up and stored in a frost-free spot. Cannas were easy to grow and multiplied quickly. I remember boxes upon boxes of Cannas bulbs available at the fall rummage sale at Laurel Lee Presbyterian Church.
By the late seventies, Cannas had fallen out of favour. New varieties of flowers were being introduced in great numbers and there was little interest in the lowly Canna.
But what goes around, comes around. Today, fifty years later, Canna Lilies are enjoying a resurgence. Their bold leaves and dramatic blooms take centre stage in the garden and are used as thrillers in container gardening.
Cannas range from 3 feet high to 6 feet and higher. The new varieties are shorter, boom longer and have more colourful leaves. Red remains the most popular colour, followed by orange, yellow and even white.
Plant Cannas in spring, about a month before they are ready to plant outdoors. Bulbs are tubers and look like ginger roots. Plant in 6 inch or 1-gallon containers, and they will quickly produce healthy leaves. At the end of May they will be ready to plant outdoors.
Cannas love to be planted in containers. The newer dwarf introductions will grow 3 or 4 feet high and perform nicely as the dominant thriller in the container. Plant Verbenas, Potato vine or other trailing flower around the Cannas to fill out the display.
Cannas are easy to grow. They appreciate fertilizer and well-watered soil. Cannas will begin the season with bold leaves and will bring forth blooms in July when there is consistent heat and sun.
At the end of the gardening season, allow Cannas to be hit from frost usually around mid-October. Dig up the bulbs, cut off what remains of the leaves and toss in a paper bag or cardboard box. Store in a cool, dark location. They won’t need attention until spring. In early April clean off the roots and replant in clean potting soil.
If you forget to dig up the Cannas in fall, you might take the gamble and leave the roots in the ground. If the winter is mild, and if there is enough garden debris above the bulbs to offer sufficient insulation, the bulbs might survive winter.