Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The lost 6 months - dry rhizomes

Canna 'Uncle Sam', photo by Malcolm McFarland

For Cannas in the rhizome trade it is quite simple. They have the foliage chopped off and the rhizomes are ripped out of the field at first frosts, they go through a high pressure water spraying system that removes most of the soil still clinging to them. They dry for a week or so in a controlled temperature, then they are hand separated and packaged ready for sale.

Up until then everything went just fine for the Cannas, but now the problems start. The packaged rhizomes enter the distribution chain, and they spend their time in warehouses and despatch points in temperatures that are very often uncontrolled. Eventually, in January they arrive at the premises of the final part of the chain, the garden centres. There they go onto sales racks and any weak ones perish there, with no water, and little light. No more to say, except that they stay there slowly dehydrating until May and early June, when they get offered in 2-4-1 deals to cover up their disadvantaged state.

For the survivors, the rhizomes sold through the rhizome trade are normally very dry by the time they are sold to the public, and I feel that they should not be judged at all that first year. The rhizomes are normally very de-hydrated and the root system is normally dried out and useless. All the remaining energy stored in the rhizome has to be used to protect its very life existence and is mainly used to grow a new root system.

If it is planted in soil with little nutritious value, then it is now in a doomed cycle. Growing a new root system means it does not have the energy available to produce large, luxurious foliage or produce large expansive blooms. It will grow some foliage to allow the capture of more energy to keep it alive, and that will probably be sub-standard, showing its state of stress. It may produce minimum flowers in a desperate attempt to produce some seed to ensure its DNA lives on, but nothing that will enlighten the heart of a gardener. So the Canna manages to hang onto life, but the gardener thinks it is a poor variety and doesn't deserve to have space in the garden again.

Gardeners who give up on Cannas at this point have just lost out on one of life's raffles. So many, if nurtured properly through the winter and grown on in good conditions next year will more than make the grade. I believe that many plants thrown out as having virus are just heavily stressed through mistreatment. That doesn't mean that many don't have virus, I am sure that they do, but my guess is that at least 50% are just suffering from this mishandling during the lost 6 months.

No comments:

Post a Comment