Monday, 14 May 2007

Crazy about Crozy

In 1862, Pierre-Antoine-Marie Crozy, a partner in Avoux & Crozy, at La Guillotière, Lyon, France introduced his first Canna hybrids, they were C. 'Bonnetti', C. 'Plantieri' and C. 'Rodleisii'. They were well received by the enthusiasts of the time, but nothing would have told them what would happen in the following forty years.

Monsieur Crozy's goal was to turn Cannas from being primarily a foliage plant, with pretty but insignificant flowers, into a floriferous plant that could compete alongside any other genera in the flower beauty stakes. How well he succeeded can be judged by the fact that by the time of his death in 1903 the Canna was the most popular garden flower in both his native France and in the USA, where it even outsold roses.

Canna 'Bonnetti' has staminodes that are 45 mm. length and 13 mm. breadth, and by the time of his demise new cultivars were being introduced where the size had been increased to 66 by 35 mm, and this was achieved purely by selective breeding. The different colours and colour patterns in bloom and foliage were introduced by crossing his hybrids with other species, such as C. iridiflora. Basically, Crozy raided the species to supply him with any new feature he required.

The most famous of the cultivars introduced by Crozy was Canna 'Madame Crozy' (see the print), and this was later used by both Luther Burbank in California and Carl Sprenger in Italy to cross with the species C. flaccida to produce the first of the Italian Group Cannas.

Monsieur Crozy has been referred to as both Antoine and Antonin, the latter being a common nickname for persons called Antoine. He was also called Crozy aîné, which is the French for "elder", however, it is reasonable to assume that he was not called by that nickname until late in life. Incidentally, there are canna cultivars called C. 'Papa Crozy', and C. 'Antonin Crozy', sometime refrred to as C. 'Antoine Crozy'. The third of his christian names is the French version of Mary, which was a name commonly given to both genders in those days.

Antoine Crozy was succeeded by his son, Michel Crozy, who died only five years later at the tender age of 37 years, thus ending one of the most important and dynamic periods in the history off Canna.

It can be seen from this posting, how important the species are to us. The species collectively have provided everything currently found in our cultivars. There does seem to be an opportunity to introduce some new blood. Also, interesting seedlings can be obtained by using some of the early Foliage Group cultivars, produced nearly 150 years ago as the pollen parent, most are self-pollinating and would need to be emasculated if they were used as seed parents.

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