Plant your borders with flying colours
Glamorous exotic tropical cannas bring vivid shades to your garden
CANNA lilies are great for introducing interest at this time of year with their dramatic foliage and dazzling flowers, and I’ve been planting them this week. Popular since Victorian times as the thriller centrepiece to bedding schemes, they look great planted in pots or borders and should perform well through to October.
Now’s a good time to purchase them so you know exactly what you are getting in terms of foliage and blossom colours. These vary enormously across the different cultivars.
The leaves are large and paddleshaped and can be vivid green through to dark burgundy, sometimes with stripes or veins of yellow or pink. The flowers range through all the hot colours of oranges, reds, yellows and pinks as well as some cool white versions.
Their exotic appearance can transform a sedate area into a steamy jungle, especially when planted with other fiery flowers such as salvias, dahlias and crocosmia, or dramatic large head agapanthus.
Their nearest relatives in the plant world are other big-leaved plants such as gingers and bananas which also make good planting companions for them.
They come from the tropic and subtropical regions of North and South America where the starch-rich rhizomes are often grown as an agricultural food crop.
Here they are classed as tender perennials. In milder or coastal areas you might get away with leaving them outdoors in winter, and as the leaves die down in winter, mulch well to insulate.
However, if you are in colder areas and usually lift your dahlias, then you’re best to lift the canna rhizomes too. Dig them up with the soil they are planted in and pot up to overwinter in the greenhouse or a cool area indoors, watering occasionally so they don’t dry out. They can be replanted outdoors when fear of frost has gone in May.
For such glamorous and showy plants, they are surprisingly easy to care for.
They are heavy feeders so prepare the planting site well with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure, and feed a liquid fertiliser regularly for optimum flowering. Plenty of water is also a must and ideally plant in sunshine out of the wind – although they are sturdy, the wind can batter the leaves and make them look a bit tatty.
Gently remove any dead petals but don’t snap off the heads as you usually would when deadheading as there are more flower buds directly beneath which you don’t want to destroy.
They can suffer from a virus which shows up as mottling and distortion of the leaves. Regrettably there is no remedy for this and the only option is to dig them all up and destroy them.
Best varieties to look out for include ‘Wyoming’ which is tall with tangerine orange flowers and gorgeous dark leaves, ‘Durban’ for its burgundy foliage with pink and orange variegation, and ‘Ehemanii’ which has beautiful nodding trusses of pink flowers.
Most striking of all is ‘Musifolia Grande’ which is a whopper at over two metres and mainly grown for its foliage as it doesn’t usually achieve its full height and flowering in our climate.
And did you know that there are water cannas which can you grow in your pond during the summer? These can stand in a couple of inches of water or you could grow them in a tray of water.
There’s also a variety called ‘Ra’ with beautiful yellow flowers. These are tender so will need bringing indoors for winter or they’d be lovely as a conservatory plant.
For more information or to buy, check out Hart Canna, the holder of the national collection of cannas at hartcanna.co.uk or call 01252 514421
Cannas bring an exotic touch to any garden and have a seemingly endless variety of colours and, below, dramatic foliage
bags and store for later sowing. TO guarantee some winter greens – spring cabbage, turnips and quick-growing crops such as salads and radishes can all be sown now. TRIM hedges now while the weather is good. DRY weather is also great for getting any paint jobs done on sheds, fences or furniture that need a facelift. Is it time now to try out a new colour scheme? A good time to paint fences and sheds