This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
WE doubt if any of the perennial bulbs bearing annual flowers and foliage, can rival the Canna in stately magnificence, grace, and sublimity. Adapting themselves as they do to almost any soil or situation either in city or country, they are foremost in contributing to the tropical appearances of the garden when planted in groups bordering on the shrubbery. Their continued luxuriance and beautiful sheen prompt us to always give them the most conspicuous place in the pleasure ground, and their utility for decorating the conservatory, window garden and draw-room is very well known. People think it difficult to preserve the bulbs of this plant over winter, yet the requirements for their preservation is very simple: first, see that the bulbs are perfectly dry before removing them to winter quarters; they will live in any dry place where the temperature will not fall below freezing, or pack under hay or straw in the stable or barn. Scientists will pronounce these bulbs unsafe unless packed in sand and sawdust. 'Tis not at all necessary; we found them to live under the same temperature and treatment that potatoes will.
This plant will thrive satisfactorily in most kind of soils; still it, like other plants, has its favorite compost,. namely, black, sandy loam with a mixture of fresh stable manure. Some of the older workers in the soil will feel a little chagrin at our prescribing fresh manure in this case - let such dispense with imported theories, and American horticulture will profit immensely. Bulbous-rooted flowers delight in striking their roots into a mixture of strong, fresh manure that has retained all the ammonia and other good substances so encouraging to plant growth and health. It may not be out of place to relate here a little incident that led us to the secret of forcing Canna into early bloom; it was accidentally this: An unruly cow broke loose from the pasture early one morning, and took a walk through the pleasure grounds, to enjoy in sweet solitude all the beauties that a well-kept landscape presents in the dewy mornings of June. She, however, did not confine herself to the mere admiration that circumstances offered, but indulged freely in satisfying her appetite on a large group of Cannas that occupied a central ornamental position.
The gardener did not curse much; he had often made new discoveries under a similar circumstance before, and was now anxious to know how the core of the stalk would develop itself, as he cut the bruised and broken shoots down within one foot of the ground. The growth of the leaves were checked by this operation, but the center remained active. Four days after a flower stalk of a very prepossessing character made its appearance above the cut, and in ten days more had attained the height of three feet and fully expanded blossoms. Meantime young shoots sprouted from the bulbs, and were making rapid progress towards repairing the injury done to the parent stalk. The shoots that remained unmolested in the group did not bloom until five weeks later than those that were bruised and cut down.
Canna Marechal Vaillant, a new species sent out during 73 and 74, deserves special notice on account of its superior quality for ornamental purposes. The great fault with the older species of this family, is the pendulous tendency of their leaves being swayed to and fro by the wind, and lastly broken by heavy rains. The leaves of C Marechal Vaillant assume an upright attitude, once they develop and maintain this inclination throughout. In most cases two or three or more shoots start from each bulb, each attaining the height of 6 feet and covered from base to top with large, green, oblong leaves. Flower stalk smooth, erect and very substantial, dividing at the top into bud panicles. Corolla, creamy yellow, folding as the buds expand, and forming upright columns holding the petals composedly in their place. Petals large and conspicuous, orange color with pale crimson tints splashed delicately over the surface.
Speaking of Canna reminds us of a massive forest of bulbous-rooted flowers designed by the writer on the grounds of a grand institution in Cincinnati. A gas work was in continual operation in close proximity. Soot and smoke hovered above, all seemingly strictly neutral towards the vegetation that abounded plenteously on the beautiful grounds that surrounded the institution although located in the center of the city.
A tall growing species, C. gigantea auran-tica, attaining a height of ten feet was chosen for the center of the grove, followed by the following named varieties, each sort completing a row in the large oval-shaped bed: C. sanguined chatei, eight feet, flowers deep red, dark green foliage; C. limbata, seven feet, flowers scarlet, fine foliage; C. Marechal Vallanty six feet, orange, beautiful upright green foliage; C. zebrina, five feet, scarlet, striped foliage. Other bulbous-roots were planted alternately, thus after Zebrina, a row of Tritoma uvaria; C. aurea vittata, four feet, very ornamental, followed by a row of Liliums auratuin and lancifolium; C. wars-cewiczii, three feet, flowers brilliant red, variegated foliage, followed by a row of Pompon Dahlias; C. museafolia hybrida, two feet, red foliage, followed by Gladiolus, Tuberose and Tigridia, one row of each kind; C. an-gustifolia nana pallida, one foot and a half, followed by the smaller sorts of variegated Caladiums, making an ornamental edge for the forest of foliage and blossoms.
The gay buds and large expanded petals of the Gladiola, Tigridia, Auratum, etc., contrasted finely in sublime harmony with the beautiful leaves of the dwarfer Canna, giving the scene a feature that baffled description.
Gentlemen visitors from Philadelphia, New York and Boston, pronounced this tropical arrangement superior to anything they had ever seen in the floral line. And we add as an encouragement to young America, that the designer had never seen those much boasted of foreign gardens, nay, nor never received instructions from any one who graduated in said gardens.