Thursday, 11 November 2010

Why more aquatic cultivars?

About seven years ago I built a small pond in the garden, its dimensions are about 2 metres by 1 metre. Not very large, but in keeping with the size of the garden. This is typical of garden ponds in the UK, somewhere for a couple of fish, a small fountain, a few aquatic plants, especially a water lily, and the inevitable frogs.
Naturally, I immediately planted the Longwood series of aquatic Canna in the special aquatic pots and settled back to enjoy them. True to their reputation they did not fail me as they are true aquatics, flourishing under 15-20cm (approx 6 inches) of water and they grew and they grew. This was their failing for me, they are far too large for a small garden pond. Their height made the pool, which was my pride and joy, look like a small puddle.
The Longwood aquatic cultivars were bred for the large ornamental ponds and lakes of Longwood garden, not for the typical suburban garden puddle. The series consists of Cannas 'Endeavor', 'Ra', 'Erebus' and 'Taney'. My favourite is probably C. 'Erebus', a fine pink specimen, but the intense yellow of C. 'Ra' (below right) is always eye-catching, and the unusual apricot/salmon orange colour of C. 'Taney' is always interesting and last, but not least, we have C. 'Endeavor' (above right), with its attractive bright red flowers.

However, I digress. We had already recreated the earliest Canna species cross, having crossed C. glauca with C. indica. However, instead of obtaining the 2 metre (6'6") tall C. 'Annei', we had obtained seedlings that grew to under 1 metre (3'3"), but with the same glaucous blue, lance shaped foliage. So we decided to see if we could create a series of aquatic cultivars based on these seedlings which all took after the aquatic C, glauca, and more suitable for the small garden pond than the expansive ponds and lakes of Longwood Gardens.

Eventually we ended up with Canna 'Avon', a pale yellow speckled with cerise, Canna 'Severn', which is a golden yellow with some small red spotting, C. 'Usk', that is a distinctive self-coloured burnt-red, C. 'Wye', which is pink tinged with canary-yellow, and C. 'Teme', the 'white' of the series, but really a pleasant self-coloured ivory. Others are still undergoing evaluation, and we are still trying to create the difficult orange one.
Was it worth while? I think so, they look just right and in balance in our small pool, and we find that the gaucous blue, lance shaped foliage that they all share adds the final touch of elegance.
Over the next weeks we will try and post articles on some of these new cultivars.

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