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On Gardening: Cannas create a little tropical paradise

July 7, 2014

Cannova Red Shade creates a little tropical paradise in the home garden.

en a wake-up call for me: Cannas are still among the most treasured flowers in the garden. I love gingers and occasionally I will fret with heliconia or bird of paradise, but truthfully the tropical look of the canna is hard to beat.

Bengal Tiger has always been my favorite except for the time my LSU counterparts started welcoming me into the Tiger Nation. But this variegated green- and yellow-leafed canna with deep orange flowers is indeed truly incredible. In full scorching sun it looks a little more golden, while in shadier locations lime green almost predominates.

New gardeners are discovering it every year, but would you believe it was imported from India in 1963? Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we have ours combined with flowering bananas for an island paradise setting. The key to your happiness is to use enough to create a show. Spot planting rarely entices you to linger or grab for the camera.

My next favorite is Tropicanna. It is hard for me to believe I first wrote about it in 1997. The leaves are really the most exotic in the canna world. It is a struggle to adequately describe the beauty as each leaf is different. There are green and gold variegations or stripes but broadly colored with burgundy, rust and pink as well. To see these backlit by the sun in a botanical treat. We used these in proximity to a large Fantasy crape myrtle with picturesque rust bark and nearby golden yellow yarrow.

In addition to quantity with cannas it is also about companionships and letting your creative side step-out. The canna calls for you to be fearless when it comes to preconceived partnerships or rules. Whether you want the Caribbean island look, Grandmaís cottage garden, a backyard hummingbird garden, or a style that reflects more tradition, cannas can do it all for you.

In our cottage garden one of the most stunning combinations uses salmon-colored cannas and purple monarda or bee balm. Honestly this combination stretched my comfort zone, so to speak, but has proven to be a Kodak moment for several visitors.

Regardless of the variety you choose, the best blooming will occur in full sun, though partial shade is tolerated. While the plants can thrive in soggy conditions, they will be more cold-hardy in soils that are fertile yet well drained. Though you are buying hybrid seed produced plants or those grown from tissue culture you can expect them to be perennial in zones 7 through 10. In colder regions consider digging the rhizomes for storage or growing in containers and tucking them inside the garage for the dormant season.

Soil preparation pays dividends with cannas. Amend tight, heavy soils with 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like peat or humus, and till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. While tilling the soil, incorporate 3 pounds of a 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area.

If you havenít tried cannas in a few years it is probably time you took notice at your garden center. Keep your eyes opened for the new Cannova series, the first F1 hybrid seed produced series. These were actually bred in the Netherlands and offer exceptional blooms in cooler climates in addition to those on the sultry side. Things have changed with cannas, and you will be pleasantly surprised to have this tropical flower giving you a touch of island life.

 

 


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