Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Canna 'Richard Wallace' is Crozy Group

Canna 'Richard Wallace' in 1964 Montgomery Ward catalogue

The 1964 Montgomery Ward Catalogue included 10 Canna cultivars. Amongst the offerings is Canna 'Richard Wallace' with a photograph clearly showing it as a Crozy Group cultivar. The description simply states "Canary-yellow blooms. Low growing."

What is generally being sold as C. 'Richard Wallace' is not low-growing, being at least 1 metre (3'3") tall. Moreover, examine the top photograph and it is immediately obvious that the labellum (lip) is narrower than the staminodes, and the stamen is small, compared with the Italian Group where the stamen is always very wide, and the labellum is much narrower than the staminodes. The definition of a Crozy Group cultivar.

What is on general sale as Canna 'Richard Wallace' is obviously an Italian Group cultivar, but which funnily enough matches exactly the description of Canna 'Austria', and is, like all that group, seed sterile. It has a labellum wider than the staminodes, and a very wide stamen. It is also seed sterile.

Catalogues from the venerable house of Wilhelm Pfitzer, the breeders of this cultivar, clearly state that Canna 'R. Wallace' was a Crozy Group cultivar.

Canna 'R. Wallace' was entered in the 1907 Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) outdoor trials as a gladiolus-type (Crozy Group) and not an orchoides-type (Italian Group). That evidence is overwhelming, because the RHS do not make elementary mistakes, especially in the pedantic Victorian age. The entry in the year book simply states "Canna 'R. Wallace' — Gladiolus-flowered, pale yellow, faintly spotted with rose." That description matches exactly the specimen that we, at Claines Canna, purchased from the old and revered house of Suttons, who hold the Royal Warrant. That is a Crozy Group specimen, and is seed fertile. We still have it growing, although suffering with Canna virus and grown away from the main collection.

But it is not only at Suttons in the UK where the correct cultivar was being sold up until recently. Referring to the International Canna Group I noted a posting by Kent Kelly of Quality Gladiolus in the USA, dated Tue Aug 19, 2003 1:21 am, who stated that, "Our original Richard Wallace contained two types of look-alike cultivars. The flower was identical but one was an `assumed' triploid and produced no seed, and the other produced seed that may have been sterile (not sure – did not try to grow). Our planting stock originated from Sarver Nursery of California."

Probably, at one time Quality Gladiolus also had the real-thing growing there, as well as the incorrectly named Italian Group cultivar now in wide circulation.

Wikipedia Canna cultivar groups


  1. It is not a coincidence that the litter trail of so many misnamings ends up at Mrs Sarver in the 1980's.

  2. Just a thought.

    The picture of Canna 'Richard Wallace' in 1964 Montgomery Ward catalogue looks like C. Talisman to me....

  3. I had meany to add a mention of an authoritative work, "Tropical Planting and Gardening", H.F. MacMillan, 5th Edition, 1954, which stated, "Green foliage. Gladiolus flowered bright canary yellow."