Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Growing more species specimens

Well, at long last we have finished transplanting the collection outdoors, and the watering system is installed. However, still no time to relax as we are erecting another polytunnel, which will ensure that all our Cannas can be grown indoors, and in the ground over the winter.

As Cannas never become dormant, unlike bulbs, the cultivars thrive best if kept growing slowly through the winter. It is amazing how much growth the healthier ones put on during late winter and early spring.

Altogether we lost about 20 cultivars, which were mostly planted around the edges of the largest of our polytunnels. The use of another tunnel will mean that we can leave a 60cm (2 foot) empty space around the inside next year.

We have not solved the problem of the dying species. The only species specimens to survive the winter were the indica, patens, discolor, and glauca specimens. Experience has shown that the rest are too delicate to withstand any frost at all, and we will have to look at other ways of over-wintering them.

It may be that we stop trying to over-winter them and just rely on growing them as annuals from seed. A correspondant, living in the Dominican Republic and enjoying tropical weather, confided that he only grows his species plants for two years, and then he replaces them with new seed-grown specimens. There they grow 52 weeks of the year quite naturally. As species grow true-to-type, there is no problem with growing them from seed.

However, one of our Canna wild species is totally sterile. Canna discolor is sterile for both seed and pollen, and as we have to rely on the rhizomes thriving, we intend to grow several specimens in the future, and over-winter them in different places, to try and guarantee their survival. It took many years of trying to acquire the genuine C. discolor, and we don't want to loose it. In addition, next winter we will be making it available to enthusiasts, so providing some insurance for the future.

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