Friday, 2 November 2007

The Canna 'Wyoming' enigma

The origins of the Canna 'Wyoming' cultivar have long been shrouded in mystery, and several unsubstantiated claims have been made about its originator.

The earliest fact that I have been able to discover about a cultivar named C. 'Wyoming' is in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society in November 1908, when they reported on the Out of doors Canna Trials they conducted at Wisley Gardens in 1908.

A cultivar named C. 'Wyoming' was entered in the section for Gladiolus-flowered, dark foliage cultivars, flowers orange, orange-red. It had been granted the status of Highly Commended the previous year in the indoor Canna Trials, also held at Wisley. The originator was probably Leon Wintzer, as he introduced others naming them for other US states.

The definition of gladiolus-flowered cultivars was: "Compact habit; truss large, close-flowered; petals smooth, firm in texture, colours generally brilliant."

The definition of Orchid-flowered cultivars was "Taller growing; truss small; flowers very large, petals soft, crumpled; colours not brilliant."

To those of us who know C. "Wyoming", the second description fits, and we know it as an Italian Group cultivar, as the Orchid-flowered ones are now categorized.

We next turn to the writings of Luther Burbank, who in his work entitled The Canna and the Calla, and some interesting work with striking results, in which there is a good colour picture (see above) of what we would now recognise as Wyoming, with the following footnote:
The Wyoming Canna

Mr. Burbank has had great success in the development of the canna, introducing a number of varieties that have gained popularity. The one called Wyoming, here shown, has flowers that are peculiarly graceful and attractive.

Much to my disappointment, Herr Árpäd Mühle, in his seminal work Das Geschlecht der Canna, published in 1908 does not mention it at all, either as a Crozy Group (gladiolus-flowered) or an Italian Group (orchid-flowered). In the book he describes what must be over 500 cultivars in detail.

I believe that if the Italian Group 'Wyoming' had been introduced by then, it would be in that book.
So, what are we to make of this?

I am of the opinion that there may have been two separate cultivars with the name C. 'Wyoming', the first probably introduced by
Leon Wintzer, as he also introduced others giving them the US state names. Some time after 1910, Luther Burbank introduced the Italian Group cultivar we all love nowadays, and gave it the same name.

No comments:

Post a Comment