Looking suitably festive, Canna 'Fabricant Berg' puts on his best foot forward this Christmas in Australia.
A very tall Italian-type Canna with green foliage. It was released in Australia in 1915 along with a flurry of other Italian-type cannas which appear to have been imported from the USA as the list includes Wintzer's medium height 'Pennsylvania' and 'Mrs. Kate Grey'. Both of these are also still in cultivation here.
By 1926, 'Fabricant Berg' was being described in these old catalogues as having dark foliage. It was not unusual to find differing descriptions as time went by from the initial release period. Staff changed, labels disappeared.
Identical in habit, foliage and height is another Italian-type which appears to be a seed sibling to 'Fabricant Berg', differing in the flower by a lack of gold fringing around the staminodes, but being the same shades of scarlet red flecked with crimson and having similar gold flecking in the centre.
This is believed to be Canna 'Ivor Evans' but the identity has not yet been confirmed by descriptions from sources other than Australian Nursery catalogues from 1910-1918.
We have here in Australia what appears to be yet another sibling of the above two cannas. All three are exceptionally tall in their flowering spike and withstand trying weather conditions better than most of the other Italians. All have very broad, large, spoon shaped green leaves that are most distinctive.
This third giant was released here in 1915 and sold for decades under the name 'Frederick Benary'. Its flowers are very large, dark orange with a distinctive gold border and gold flecking in the centre extending into a yellow throat. The flowers last and last and fade to pink tones as they age. By mid season one needs a stepladder to get up close and personal with Fred's flowers as he flowers at a height even taller than the preceeding two cultivars.
Descriptions in some overseas catalogues of the period differ. Some have Fred as a red Canna with dark foliage and I have found one instance of it matching the Australian description of green foliaged, with an orange flower with gold border and gold in the centre.
Eventually we will track down the positive identity of this giant amongst cannas. Meanwhile it must carry the name it has born in Australia since 1915 of 'Frederick Benary'. Australian nurseries described it as "The tallest Canna grown", and they were not far off the mark. I would say that Fred is the equal tallest Italian-type Canna grown. The other beanpole is another of my mysterious foundlings that await identification.
My plant of so-called 'Frederick Benary' came to me from the old Bendigo collection which is now largely defunct although efforts are being made by the Friends of the Gardens in Bendigo to re-establish a Canna collection at gardens at White Hills, Bendigo.