Saturday, 30 June 2007

The greatest Canna exhibition ever?

An article by Professor Liberty Hyde Bailey, taken from the Garden and Forest Journal of September 6, 1893.

The Columbian Exposition.

The Front Esplanade of the Horticultural Building.

THE extreme front of the Horticultural Building is something over a hundred feet west of the lagoon, opposite the wooded island. The exterior borders of the lagoons, except the extreme north-eastern and southern arms, are bounded by a perpendicular wall some four or five feet high, upon which is placed a heavy balustrade. This architectural feature serves the double purpose of blending the lagoon with the formal environs and of appearing to set the buildings upon a platform or terrace, thereby increasing their height and importance. The spaces between this railing and the contiguous buildings are essentially esplanades, and some of them are very effective. The central and important portion of the esplanade of the Horticultural Building is an area about sixty feet wide and extending the length of the building --1,000 feet. Upon the east it is bounded by the broad gravel walk skirting the lagoon, and on the west by another thoroughfare. The centre-piece of this esplanade is a Lily-tank with masonry walls, containing forty species and varieties of water-plants, shown by William Tricker, of Staten Island. Nymphaeas predominate, of which the best, at this writing, are Nymphaea Devoniensis superba, a plant with rich bronze leaves and pink-red flowers; N. gracilis, with its starry, sharp-petaled, white flowers standing a foot or more above the leaves, and N. Zanzibarensis and the varieties rosea and azurea. The Water-poppy, Limnocharis Humboldtii, also makes a show with its saucer-like sulphur flowers. Some good Papyrus-plants break the monotony of the pond.

Upon either side of this Lily-pond are two nearly square areas of sod, with flower-beds, beyond which, in each direction, a long parterre stretches away nearly 400 feet. These long areas, which stretch off both north and south, were simply quiet, unornamented lawns early in the season, and it was the hope of the landscape-department that they might be left undisturbed in order to enforce the effect of the lagoon terrace and add a proper dignity to the great building. But land was needed for parterres, and in June the sod was cut into seventy-nine beds, all but three of which are planted to Cannas. This great display of Cannas, extending over a total length of a thousand feet, is now the most conspicuous feature of the environs of the Horticultural Building. There is some chance for criticism in the arrangement, for the many small beds give a spotty effect. If the same plants had been massed into a broad central avenue, or even into two narrow marginal avenues, the effect would have been more continuous and, I think, more impressive.

The plants were late in going into the ground, and the soil is sandy and poor; yet the display, as a whole, is very bold at the opening of September, and it certainly has great merit. The varieties are not numerous, and for that reason the exhibit is all the better. They represent the best of the new French or dwarf Cannas, a class of plants which has been greatly improved in very recent years, especially in all the best qualities of bloom. In the two small areas upon either side of the Lily-tank, J. C. Vaughan shows eighteen beds of Cannas - the central bed in the south area being the best single bed in the collection at this writing. The central portion of the bed is occupied by a heavy planting of Florence Vaughan, which bears a very large yellow flower, thickly and uniformly spotted with brown. About this is a band of J. C. Vaughan, a dull red flower and dark bronze foliage. This is skirted by George W. Childs, a variety of the Madame Crozy type, but bearing more gold upon the petals. The companion bed in the north area has a centre, of the excellent J. D. Cabos, with outer bands of Explorateur Crambel and Florence Vaughan. Among other varieties shown by Vaughan are Egandale, a very dark-leaved and dull red variety of great merit, and Mademoiselle de Crillon, the nearest approach to a pure yellow Canna upon the grounds.

The chief interest in the Canna exhibits, however, attaches to the competitive displays of New York and Pennsylvania. New York occupies most of the south parterre, nearly 400 feet in length, and Pennsylvania has its twin upon the north. Much has been said concerning the comparative merits of these exhibits, and the competition is certainly close; yet it is clear that the New York display is ahead at this time in the vigor of the plants and condition of bloom. I do not know if this is due to any difference in soil or to better plants or more careful management. The varieties are essentially the same in both. F. R. Pierson & Co. supply all the New York plants. The best single bed in this collection is a large circular mass of Capitaine P. de Suzzoni, one of Crozy's varieties introduced to the American trade in I892. It is a tall and bold grower, holding its long clusters of large yellow, brown spotted, flowers well above the leaves.

The Pennsylvania plants are furnished by Henry A. Dreer and Robert Craig. Altogether, Madame Crozy is probably the best Canna in the entire collection, especially when one considers its long season of bloom and good constitution. Star of '91, the American variety of this type, does not appear in the collections, except in a small bed shown by Vaughan, an indication that it lacks in staying qualities.
The other best Cannas, judging from this collection, are J. D. Cabos, foliage dark bronze, flowers copper-yellow; Paul Marquant, pinkish salmon-red, introduced here last year; Mademoiselle de Crillon, clear yellow, with a darker throat, but flowers small; Capitaine P. de Suzzoni, already described; Francois Crozy, salmon, very faintly bordered with gold; Florence Vaughan and Egandale, already described; Alphonse Bouvier, dark red, tall grower, introduced in America last year, and Miss Sarah Hill, a low plant with very dark, almost maroon-red, flowers, also introduced last year. Other prominent varieties are Count Horace de Choiseul, brilliant red; Paul Bruant, light red; Explorateur Crambel, dull red; Charles Henderson, dull red, lowest petal blotched; Secretary Stewart, rich red; Enfant de Rhone, salmon-red; Duchesse de Montenard, lemon, spotted red; Baronne de Renowardy, dull rosered, introduced last year by Dreer; Gustave Sennholz, light red; Secretary Nicholas, dark salmon-red; Statuaire Fulconis, red, introduced in this country last year; Edouard Michel, bright salmon-red; The Garden, with large bright salmon-red flowers; Little Gem, much like Star of '91, except that the flowers are smaller and a trifle lighter, with more yellow inside.

At the south end of the south parterre Pitcher & Manda show five choice beds of seedlings, and at the north end of the north area H. P. Potter, of Wilmington, Delaware, shows a new American seedling which reminds one of Florence Vaughan, but it has a smaller flower, which is more densely spotted with red. Both ends of this north area are introduced by a large keystone of carpet bedding, and the north end of the New York display has a shield made of succulents.

At the rear of this central area, lying against the floral curtains upon either side of the dome entrance, are the two spaces which were devoted to Pansies early in the season. Some small beds of Pansies still persist upon the inside of the spaces, but the great central beds are filled with Cannas and Ricinus, furnished by Pierson. The soil is dry and poor and the plants are yet small, but they will probably make a great show later on. Upon either end of both of these areas are two small beds of Coleus and Solanum integrifolium, and some carpet beds of Alternantheras, House-leeks and Agaves. Two smaller areas in front of the end pavilions are filled with a large and interesting collection of Cacti, furnished by Mr. Blanc for the Pennsylvania display.

Along the north-east corner of the Horticultural Building is the display of French Gladioli, shown by Victor Lemoine, of Nancy, and Forgeot, of Paris. Lemoine, who is known to Gladiolus fanciers throughout the world, shows over sixty varieties, about twenty-five plants of each. This corner proves to be a windy location, and most of Forgeot's plants have suffered from the late storms; and Lemoine's, which are tied to cords, have also been injured. Yet both collections passed the height of their bloom before the inclement weather appeared, and they have attracted much attention. Probably few people, even among flower-lovers, are aware of the great variety and beauty of Lemoine's types of Gladioli.

Chicago, Ill. L. H. Bailey.

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