Thursday, 21 June 2007

Canna 'Burbank' unveiled to the world

An extract from the journal, Garden and Forest of June 3 1896.


A New Hybrid Canna.

To the Editor of GARDEN AND FOREST:


During a recent visit to Santa Rosa, California, I called upon Luther Burbank, and among other things was shown a new hybrid Canna which, when introduced, will probably create as great a sensation as Madame Crozy did. This plant is not a seedling of the well-known strains so deservedly popular, but is a hybrid between Madame Crozy, which has so long been the standard of excellence, and Canna flaccida.

Canna flaccida is a native of Florida, of a dwarf habit, and not a strong grower. Its exquisite light yellow flowers would, in spite of these defects, give it a high place in the garden were they not so very ephemeral. So frail and fleeting are they that an hour in the morning often measures their term of existence. I remember well that it was days before I got a sight of the flowers on a blooming plant of my own. The flower of C. flaccida is unique among Cannas in having something of the grace of an Iris and a peculiar silvery sheen that is very beautiful.

For years Mr. Burbank has been trying to make a cross in which some of these fine qualities of Canna flaccida might be united with the vigor and lasting qualities of the Crozy strain, but while many seedlings were grown and bloomed, all, with a pertinacity which is so often the despair of the hybridizer, followed one of the parents, and that Madame Crozy.

Last summer, in the third generation of hybridized seedlings, the new seedling appeared, and any one knowing Canna flaccida would have instantly recognized its parentage. Only a single seedling among thousands, yet Mr. Burbank feels that it well repays the trouble.

In the new and as yet nameless Canna are united, happily, the Iris-like form, the satiny sheen and the large size of flower of Canna flaccida, while the Crozy blood, giving to the plant a vigor of growth even surpassing either parent, and a lasting quality to the flowers about the same as Crozy possesses, is only apparent in the coloring in a lemon more intense than in flaccida, and a few reddish spots in the throat.

A marked feature of the new race is the development of some of the minor petals which in the Crozy strain are all but rudimentary. In the new Canna they are broad and flat, giving a bold fullness of outline until now quite unknown in Cannas.

Considering the predominance of Canna flaccida in this seedling, the most critical point is its keeping qualities. In this regard it is not quite the equal of Crozy. The flower opens up a clear lemon-yellow never before known in Cannas, and is unspotted, except for a few dots well in the throat. With age it becomes lighter in color, and in ordinary weather will last about as long as Madame Crozy, and I think for exhibition it is superior to any other Canna.

The foliage is of a light green, the growth a little stronger than that of Madame Crozy, the flowers well carried above the leaves and somewhat larger than those of the Crozy type.

The breadth of petal in the new strain is a marked feature which we can expect future hybridizers to still further develop.

Ukiah, Calif. Carl Purdy.

[The photograph of a flower of this new hybrid with one of Madame Crozy for comparison shows it to be almost identical with the variety Austria, which we have already described, although there seems to be more scarlet in the lower petal than is found in the flowers of Austria. It seems strange that in such widely separated countries Mr. Burbank in California and Dammann in Italy should have raised plants at about the same time which are so nearly identical, but these coincidences are common. When seen together the two plants may show differences which we cannot observe in the photograph, but their comparative value, of course, can only be determined by actual trial. Dammann's hybrids, Italia and Austria, have raised the standard of perfection in the flowers of these plants, but the question whether they will have substance enough to stand out-of-doors in this climate has not been settled, and it may be that the southern blood derived from C. flaccida will be seen in a lack of sturdiness. It is to be hoped that an opportunity will soon be offered to try the California hybrid by the side of the Italian one.-ED.]

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