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Cannas: Lost Forever?

From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
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Why We’ve Stopped Selling Cannas (Except One)

Although we love them, and we’ve worked hard to preserve and share the best of them with you, we’ve decided to stop selling all but one of our cannas — at least temporarily.

A new virus has been attacking cannas worldwide in recent years, and despite herculean efforts by our expert American growers, we became troubled by what we started seeing in our trial gardens and hearing from our customers.

We’re nationally acclaimed for delivering great bulbs, and that’s the only kind of bulb we want to deliver. When we can once again be sure that every canna we ship is superbly healthy, we’ll offer them again — and celebrate! But right now that’s beyond our reach.

Except for one — ‘Ehemanii’. It’s the only canna grown for us in a tiny nursery in Texas, and it’s still as healthy as can be.

And we’re not abandoning our other rare cannas altogether. With an eye to the future — and the possibilities that tissue-culture offers — our indomitable Missouri grower will continue nurturing the best of them as scientists, farmers, and enthusiasts around the globe search for solutions.

Coming to this decision has been a painful process. Our mission, after all, is to “Save the Bulbs,” and we feel for our growers. But we’re convinced that it’s the right decision.

Since there’s no cure, we recommend that you destroy any canna that has developed symptoms of the virus, including leaves that are twisted, mottled, or streaked (unless of course they’re supposed to be variegated). If we shipped you a canna that you think may have been virused, please accept our apologies and contact us so we can make things right.

Then with canna lovers everywhere we’ll look forward to brighter days ahead.


Learn more about the virus from England’s leading canna expert.

Learn more about cannas at our Newsletter Archives and History, How-To, and Resources page.


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ALBERICH, 1949

One of our most sensuous cannas, ‘Alberich’ blooms in arching sprays of big, languorous bells of a soft, luscious, creamy peach. One of the top award-winners at the 2002 RHS Canna Trials, it’s named for the elf-king in Germanic myth (and Wagner’s operas) who forges an all-powerful gold ring. Look for it inside these flowers! 3-4’, green leaves, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


AMERICA, 1893

Yes, we canna! From one small rhizome of this inspiring canna, we’ve finally built up enough to share. Over dark burgundy-bronze leaves, its flowers glow like, well, the rockets red glare. It was one of the first great “orchid-flowering” cannas bred from C. flaccida, the native canna of the southeastern states, and we can’t think of a better time to grow it than right now. 4-6 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


ASSAUT, 1920

It’s not just red, it’s EXQUISITE! We shivered with pleasure when ‘Assaut’ (say “Ah-SO”) first bloomed here. Its leaves are bluish-bronze and its voluptuous flowers are a pure, dark, luscious crimson that positively glows. Try one and we bet you’ll never scorn red cannas again! 4-6 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


BANGKOK, 1923

A harmony of green and gold, jaunty little ‘Bangkok’ has pin-striped leaves, wine-red buds, and sunny yellow, white-striped flowers. Some experts claim it came from Thailand in 1923 as ‘Tinacria Variegata.’ A.k.a. ‘Striped Beauty’, ‘Nirvana’, ‘Minerva’, and ‘Christ’s Light’. 3-4 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Widely available elsewhere.


CENTENAIRE DE ROZAIN-BOUCHARLAT, 1920?

Deep, deep rose-pink, astonishingly deep and pure, in flowers so graceful we bet they’ll remind you of frangipani leis and tropical butterflies. Though we tend to call it simply ‘Centenaire’, its full name honors the centennial of a Parisian nursery famed for its pink cannas. Green leaves, 4 feet, from Missouri and France. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


CITY OF PORTLAND, 1915

A tiny edging of gold highlights the deep rosy-peach petals of this 20th century American classic. Connoisseur Ian Cooke calls it “utterly reliable and very generous” with its blooms. Green leaves, 4-6 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered web-only in spring 2007. Learn more. Widely available elsewhere.


CLEOPATRA, 1895

Most petals of this “Harlequin Canna” are yellow dotted with red, but some are all red or divided right down the middle, half yellow, half red. Its green leaves often show a stripe or two of bronze, too. Every day it’s a new surprise! Documented in California nurseries by 1895. 3-5 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Available elsewhere.


EN AVANT, 1914

Like molten lava or the feathers of some exotic bird, the broad blossoms of ‘En Avant’ (“Forward!”) are brightly speckled with fiery orange-red dots. “One of the best,” says expert Ian Cooke. Plant it where you can enjoy it up close! Green leaves, 4-6 feet, from France and Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


FIREBIRD, 1911

Our shortest canna, spritely ‘Firebird’ is perfect for containers and small gardens. Is that why our customers buy so much of it? Or do its slender scarlet flowers over dark green leaves remind them of tropical wildflowers? A.k.a. ‘Oiseau de Feu’, by Vilmorin-Andrieux, 2-3 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Widely available elsewhere.


FLORENCE VAUGHAN, 1893

This painted lady is flamboyantly splashed and leopard-spotted in true Victorian style. Its identity is confused — it matches the International Checklist but not old catalogs, and some call it ‘Mme. Crozy’ or ‘Yellow King Humbert’. All we can say for sure is that it’s old and wonderful! Green leaves, 4-6 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Available elsewhere as ‘Yellow King Humbert’.


C. INDICA, 1596

This wild, charming “Canna of the Indies” was the first to reach Europe from the New World — 400 years ago. Not too tall, with exuberant, emerald green foliage and flowers like tiny flames, it’s refreshingly different for your perennial garden or a big, bold pot. And hummingbirds flock to it! Originally known as Indian shot, 3-5 feet, from the UK National Collection and now Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Available elsewhere.


INDICA PURPUREA

With a slender profile and distinctively upright leaves of soft bronze boldly striped with red, this is, as Ian Cooke writes, a “fabulous foliage plant.” Its small, bright orange flowers suggest that it’s very old, and it’s an exceptionally popular pass-along plant in England — but beyond that its history is obscure. Can you tell us more? Bronze leaves, 5-7 feet, from the UK National Collection, now grown for us in Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


KONIGEN CHARLOTTE, 1892

‘Queen Charlotte’ is one of our oldest cannas, and it looks the part. It’s intense and exuberant in a high-Victorian, “painted lady” kind of way, with loads of small, neat blossoms of bright red edged with yellow. Aka ‘Reine Charlotte’, green leaves, 3-5 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2009. Learn more.


LIBERATION, 1920

A warm apricot marbled with orange, gold, and even pink, ‘Liberation’ looks as if it were painted by Rubens. In lovely contrast, its buds have a grape-like bloom that makes them appear, as expert Ian Cooke says, “almost lavender.” Ahhhhh! Green leaves, 4-5 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


LOUIS CAYEUX, 1924

Christopher Lloyd, the grand old man of English gardening, liked this canna so well he sent it to the RHS’s landmark Canna Trial of 2002 where judges ranked it as one of the very best. No photo can do it justice, but its big, billowy, almost glowing flowersof rosy salmon will draw you from across the garden. Green leaves, 3-5 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


MADAME ANGELE MARTIN, 1915

The subtle beauty of this French classic eludes our camera. It’s not orange but a soft gold, apricot, and pink, like a summer sunrise, enhanced by olive-bronze foliage that one enraptured fan calls “pearly and mysterious.” 3-5 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


MADAME CASENEUVE, 1902

One look and we fell in love with heart-breakingly lovely ‘Madame Paul Caseneuve’. Its sensual flowers are apricot maturing to an ethereal pink, and they’re set off by lustrous burgundy foliage that Árpád Mühle in his 1909 Das Geschlecht der Canna praised as “luxurious”. Our Spring 2005 Heirloom Bulb of the Year, it’s a customer favorite every year. 3-5 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2008. Learn more.


MUSIFOLIA, 1858

The “Banana Canna” is one of the oldest and most impressive of all. Introduced from Peru in 1858 by Monsieur Année, godfather of cannas, it’s an architectural giant, 8-12 feet tall with big, green, maroon-edged leaves and tiny, late, red flowers. Thanks to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for helping us get it back into gardens! Missouri-grown. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Available elsewhere.


OISEAU D’OR, 1918

Not quite white, ‘Oiseau d’Or’ is a pale, unsalted-butter yellow with a surprise if you look closely – a scattering of almost invisible pink dots. Its name (say “Wah-ZO Door”) means “Golden Bird,” and it’s especially lovely combined with pastel perennials. Green leaves, 3-4 feet, from France. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


PRINCE CHARMANT, 1892

The flower spikes of this courtly canna nod in graceful arcs, as if bowing to Cinderella. One of the most truly “gladiolus-flowered” of that very old group of cannas, it’s a deep, deep watermelon rose (don’t let our photo confuse you, it’s NOT red). Extra rare, re-introduced by us from France. Green leaves, 3-5 feet, from France. Last offered in spring 2004. Learn more.


RICHARD WALLACE, 1902

Gertrude Jekyll grew “yellow-bloomed cannas short and tall” in her borders at Munstead Wood, and this enduring favorite may well have been one of them. It has calla-like flowers and some of the most beautiful leaves of all cannas: big, glossy, and apple green. 5-6 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Widely available elsewhere.


ROBERT KEMP, 1900?

Beloved by hummingbirds, ‘Robert Kemp’ looks like a wild canna with its tiny, vibrant red petals massed into torch-like clusters held on six-or-seven-foot stalks above lush green leaves. Its history is obscure (can you tell us anything?), but from its “country primitive” look we know that it’s old. From Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Available elsewhere.


ROI HUMBERT, 1902

Tall and dramatic, ‘Roi Humbert’ combines bold scarlet flowers with bronze foliage. A “sensation” in 1915 (Livingston Seed catalog), ‘Roi’ later played a leading role in the Red Borders at Hidcote, and chances are your grandparents grew it — or still do! Aka ‘Red King Humbert’, though some experts disagree. From Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2007. Learn more. Widely available elsewhere.


SEMAPHORE, 1895

Champagne, the Statue of Liberty, and ‘Semaphore’! In the late 1800s, the world’s most exciting cannas were coming from France, and this rare beauty was one of them. Its unusually narrow leaves are a deep, purple-bronze, and its slender flowers a radiant, golden-saffron-amber-orange. Ooo-la-la! (Ian Cooke says trendy ‘Pacific Beauty’ is just this renamed.) 5-6 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


SHENANDOAH, 1894

The pure, blissfully pink flowers of this Victorian treasure glow against leaves of dusky burgundy. Bred over a century ago by Pennsylvania canna-master Leon Wintzer, it had disappeared from US gardens until we reintroduced it last year. Stock is still very limited, so order early! 3-4 feet, from Missouri. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more.


STADT FELLBACH, 1934

A “cream of the crop” canna, according to UK National Collection holder Ian Cooke, this vigorous beauty is apricot pink highlighted by a blaze of creamy yellow and a curling, spotted tongue. Bred by Wilhelm Pfitzer, the 20th century’s greatest canna breeder. Green leaves, 3-5 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Available elsewhere.


WYOMING, 1906

Christopher Lloyd, the beloved guru of English gardening, ranked this as one of his all-time favorite cannas. With rich, dark bronze foliage and flowers of sunset-orange that he described as “bright yet by no means aggressive,” it turns 103 this spring! 3-5 feet, from Oklahoma. Last offered in spring 2010. Learn more. Widely available elsewhere.


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