Thursday, 3 January 2008

Canna 'Roi Humbert' revealed

"The Garden", September 9, 1905, page 154

The Editor's table.

Mr Millar writes from Vomero, Naples:

"I am sending you a flower of the famous Canna King Humbert. I am astonished that I have never read anything about this Canna. It is the most perfect of all in foliage, which is dark red, and the flower is a fine vermilion colour. I have counted on a single plant more than 300 flowers. It was raised by Mr Sprenger, and the whole stock was given to Messrs. Vilmorin-Andrieux and Co., Paris. Have any of your readers tried this variety?"

This article is the earliest reference to this great Italian Group cultivar, and adds to our knowledge of that group. The photograph above was taken at a park in Nantes, France, where it has been grown for 100 years.

Thanks to Keith Hayward, of Hart Canna, for sharing this great historical article. Herr Carl Sprenger, who introduced this great cultivar, stated that "It will surprise the horticultural world". Although considered by many at that time to be the greatest Canna of all, the early years of Canna 'Roi Humbert' are vague. It raises questions, like:
  • Why wasn't it entered in the 1906/07 Canna Trials at RHS Wisley?
  • Why did it take until 1909 to get the RHS Award of Merit?
The article also answers my question as to whether the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906, which destroyed much of the Damman nurseries, was the cause of the volatile nature of this cultivar, having been the parent of the chimeric mutation C. 'Yellow King Humbert' . This article was published in 1905, the year before the volcanic eruption, and it states that all the stock had been already been given to Messrs. Vilmorin-Andrieux and Co., Paris, France.

Additional information:

Umberto I, King of Italy or Humbert I of Italy (Umberto Ranieri Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio di Savoy), (14 March 1844 – 29 July 1900) was the King of Italy from 9 January 1878 until his death. Canna 'Roi Humbert', aka 'King Humbert', was named for him by Herr Carl Sprenger, a principal of Messrs Damman, Naples, Italy.

Canna 'Yellow King Humbert' is also known as:

  • Canna 'Anthony and Cleopatra' - name confined to Europe.
  • Canna 'Cleopatra' - the name first appeared in US catalogs in the 1960s, not to be confused with C. 'Cleopatré' which is a Crozy Group cultivar from the 1890s.
  • Canna 'Fusion' - name confined to eBay in USA.
  • Canna 'Goldkrone' - confined to Europe.
  • Canna 'Harlequin' - name appears to be confined to the USA.
  • Canna 'Queen Helena' - name appears to be confined to the USA.
  • Canna 'Queen of Italy' - name confined to India.
  • Canna 'Spanish Emblem' - - name appears to be confined to the USA.
  • Canna 'Striped Queen' - name confined to India.
  • Canna 'Yellow Humbert' - first appeared in the 1990s, presumably as a shorthand for the correct name.

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