On Gar­den­ing: South Pa­cific Scar­let canna gives stun­ning look of the is­lands

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - BY NOR­MAN WIN­TER

This year in the plant tri­als, a stun­ning new canna called South Pa­cific Scar­let had ev­ery­body mes­mer­ized. Though I had some­how missed the memo that it was a 2013 All-Amer­ica Selec­tions Win­ner I knew in­stantly which com­pany in­tro­duced it. For years, scores of vis­i­tors to the Fall Flower and Gar­den Fest at the Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity Truck Crops Ex­per­i­ment Sta­tion would ask me about our canna lilies that were so uni­form and com­pact. The can­nas were rev­o­lu­tion­ary at the time, be­cause they were the first seed-pro­duced canna for the nurs­ery in­dus­try.

Al­most all can­nas are pro­duced by rhi­zomes, but when Amer­i­can Takii came out with the Trop­i­cal se­ries a few years ago, this gave the nurs­ery in­dus­try the op­por­tu­nity to put into pro­duc­tion pic­ture per­fect can­nas to be grown for gar­den cen­ters and then sold to the pub­lic. They even had a Trop­i­cal white or ivory which is a most rare color in can­nas.

South Pa­cific Scar­let is riv­et­ing with its flam­ing red and yel­low color, and it has the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the first F1 hy­brid seed-pro­duced canna. You can buy and plant from seeds if you wish or sim­ply shop for them at your lo­cal gar­den cen­ter, plant­ing much like you would any other canna. The 4-inch blooms are borne in 4-foot tall plants.

The plants are tough, thriv­ing for years in soils that range from soggy to dry and up­land. The best bloom­ing will oc­cur in full sun, though par­tial shade is tol­er­ated. While the plants can thrive in soggy con­di­tions, they will be more cold-hardy in soils that are fer­tile yet well drained. Though you are buy­ing hy­brid seed pro­duced plants you can ex­pect them to be peren­nial in zones 7 through 10. In colder re­gions con­sider grow­ing in con­tain­ers and tuck­ing them in­side the garage for the dor­mant sea­son.

Amend tight, heavy soils with 3 to 4 inches of or­ganic mat­ter like peat or hu­mus, and till to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. While till­ing the soil, in­cor­po­rate 3 pounds of a 5-10-5 fer­til­izer per 100 square feet of plant­ing area.

We nor­mally plant rhi­zomes in the spring, set­ting them 3 to 5 inches deep and 12 to 18 inches apart. But you will be buy­ing con­tainer-grown plants that can be planted any­time, and th­ese are planted at the same depth as they are grow­ing in the con­tainer. If you do plant by seeds, pre­pare you seed bed gen­er­ously with or­ganic mat­ter plant­ing them on top and lightly cov­er­ing with the soil.

South Pa­cific Scar­let would look ex­cep­tional com­bined with cold hardy ba­nanas like the Ja­panese fiber (Musa basjoo) or part­nered with up­right ele­phant ears, the Alo­ca­sia ma­c­or­rhiza. This would absolutely give the look of the is­lands. Try plant­ing a clump of South Pa­cific Scar­let can­nas flanked by King Tut pa­pyrus. You will be out shoot­ing pic­tures ev­ery day. Lime green looks ex­cep­tional in com­bi­na­tions with this canna so also con­sider plants like Elec­tric Lime coleus, Cuban Gold du­ranta and Joseph’s coats.

The South Pa­cific Scar­let is also su­perb around wa­ter fea­tures, whether it is a found­ing, bab­bling brook or even a dry creek bed that gives the il­lu­sion that wa­ter moves through. The main thing to re­mem­ber is that for the best land­scape ef­fect, mass-plant beds with large, in­for­mal drifts.

All-Amer­ica Selec­tions has a win­ner with South Pa­cific Scar­let canna, and I hope you will look for it at your lo­cal gar­den cen­ter.

• Nor­man Win­ter is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Colum­bus Botan­i­cal Gar­den, Colum­bus, Ga., and author of “Tough-as­Nails Flow­ers for the South” and “Cap­ti­vat­ing Com­bi­na­tions Color and Style in the Gar­den.

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