MY EXPERIENCE IN HYBRIDIZING CANNAS
By Antoine Wintzer,
It is about nine years since the writer first commenced to experiment with cannas, with the object of improving the strain and creating some new and desirable varieties, suitable for our trying climate. At that time we depended almost entirely on the skill of the European growers for our novelties in cannas, and they sent us annually a great many new varieties. While some of these novelties were good, a great many were little, if any, improvement on existing varieties.
After growing a few seedlings from the best strains, the writer commenced to cross breed with the intention of producing a good solid yellow canna. There were plenty of spotted yellows, but we desired something purer. In 1893, from a batch of Crozy and Star-of-1891 seedlings, I was fortunate in getting one almost yellow. It was named Golden Star. The next year I succeeded in growing from another lot of seedlings another almost pure yellow; it was named Coronet. By crossing these two varieties I succeeded in producing Buttercup. This variety seems to have the desirable qualities long looked for in a yellow canna. It is rather dwarf, an early and free bloomer, erect head held well above the foliage, endures the sun without bleaching, drops its faded flowers, which always gives it a bright and clean appearance. It will also bloom under a lower temperature than most varieties, and last, but not least, its tubers are small and solid, making it especially valuable for pot culture.
After breeding cannas for a few years, I noticed that it was desirable to produce small and solid tubers. A great deal of this work is still in its infancy, but we are slowly advancing along that line. In the early ‘gos there were several good red cannas in commerce, and any one at that time looking over the leading catalogs and reading the description of such varieties as Alphonse Bouvier, would wonder how a more brilliant color could be produced, and I often longed for the shade of red we had in such roses as Prince Camille de Rohan and Baron de Bonstettin.
In the Canna indica section we had very little variety in colors. After crossing these for several years, I produced
To produce the different colors and types mentioned, it was necessary for me to do a considerable amount of hand hybridizing. This work was done at odd times when condition were favorable, generally in early morning. We usually plant from four hundred to five hundred of these seedlings in the field annually in June. The seed is started under glass in April, and germinates quickly. When they show two leaves they are potted into 2 l/2 or 3-inch pots. The majority of them bloom in August. At that time I always look over them daily and number or mark the most promising ones.
In reviewing the work of the past I find that the mistake made is in numbering too many. I find that it is well not to do much of this work on cloudy days, as under such conditions cannas of average quality show up well. For several years I have selected hot, dry days, from 1 to 5 o’clock p.m., with the thermometer anywhere from 90 degrees, up, in the shade. Under such conditions it is necessary for a canna flower to have substance to make a show.
The work of selecting seedlings is becoming more difficult, as there are several expert canna hybridizers in
In conclusion, the writer would say that the labor of the hybridizer is not so arduous as some would have us believe. Why should he care if the dew is wet, or the sun hot; is he not laboring for love? Is it worth nothing to watch a plant grow and thrive under your care and produce its beautiful flowers for your eye to behold?
The Canna master from Pennsylvania starts to take on a personality at last. Up until now, he was just a name in old catalogues, and I can relate to his love of Cannas, and the growing and hybridizing of them. An immigrant into the USA from Alsace in France, he made it onto the board of a US corporation because of his extraordinary horticultural skills. The American dream realised...