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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here for July Gardening Tips

You Canna if You Wanna!

You Canna if You Wanna!
Greg Grant

Cannas are the Rodney Dangerfields of the Southern garden. They don't get ANY respect! What amazes me however, is how prized they are throughout the rest of the world. Gardeners in the northern U.S. and Europe love their cannas, in spite of the fact that they have to dig and store them every winter or grow them as annuals.
I know what the problem is. Cannas are too easy to grow. That's right. Modern gardeners have been trained to turn their noses up at plants that don't require tender love and care. After all, what kind of challenge is it to grow plants that grow themselves year after year?
Cannas aren't the only downtrodden plant in this lowly group. Southern gardeners are famous for having thrown out a number of our best plants that are too easy to grow. That's what happened to China roses, pink phlox, crinums, double orange daylilies, St. Joseph's lily, Grand Primo narcissus, Byzantine gladiolus, Turk's cap, and numerous others.
Plants that grow themselves invariably end up on the wrong side of town. And as soon as snooty gardeners see some easy to grow plant in the ditch along the train tracks or growing in some crown tire planter on the south side, they associate the plant with it's environment and pan the plant as socially unacceptable.
It's an old elitist gardeners habit that frankly I'm tired of. First of all, gardening belongs to everyone. We should be happy that there are plants that everybody (including my horticulturally challenged family) can grow. Also, the days of creating artificial environments with chemicals and expensive labor are over. It's not environmentally responsible nor is it an efficient use of a gardeners valuable time to try to grow plants that don't want to grow.
Who cares where you saw a plant last? The important thing is to remember those plants that you see in tough environments and use them artistically in your own landscape.
Cannas are often maligned because they are too big, too bold, and too brash. Doesn't that sound like a Texas plant to you? Plus, cannas now come in heights from two feet to 10 feet, and in colors from the palest creams to the brightest oranges.
Cannas are also bashed because of a little pest called the canna leaf roller. He's the little larva of the skipper butterfly known for trick shooting straight rows of holes into the leaves. Heck, if we threw out every plant that had a pest problem we wouldn't be growing periwinkles, hibiscus, tomatoes, roses, azaleas, passion vines, oak trees, fruits trees, etc... I don't even use insecticide for canna leaf rollers. Whenever the foliage looks ragged from insects or our habitually tough climate, I just cut them to the ground, water and fertilize them, and PRESTO, brand new plants and flowers in a matter of weeks. It doesn't matter if you use a machete, string trimmer, brush cutter, tractor, or a flame thrower. The amazing results are still the same.
My gardening friends from the North (yes I do have a few friends) can't believe that we don't groom and dead-head our cannas in the South. Meticulous gardeners pick the dead flowers and shot leaves off as they occur. Many Southern gardeners won't even admit to owning them, much less primping them!
In addition to their toughness, cannas are fabulous for their bold foliage. I'm particularly partial to those with burgundy (OK, Aggie maroon) foliage. These would be great southern landscape perennials even if they had no flowers. But guess what? Bold canna foliage has been bumped up a notch with the addition of the latest horticultural gardening craze...variegated cannas. In addition to their green and bronze foliaged brothers (and sisters), cannas now come in a range of striped foliaged beauties. There's hardly a specialty catalog in the country now that's not carrying at least one of these new striking southern perennials. Give them a try. Cannas need love too!
Here's what's available:
'Bengal Tiger': One of the best cannas on earth! It also goes by the name of 'Pretoria'. This medium sized canna with bright orange flowers has green and cream striped foliage with a thin maroon line around each leaf.
'Phaison': This spectacular beauty is sold under the tradmarked named of Tropicanna TM. In my opinion, it has the most beautiful canna foliage out of the nearly hundred cultivars I've grown. The leaves are a beautiful combination of orange and burgundy. Even if it never produced it's bright orange flowers, it would be worth growing. My mother uses the leaves in her floral designs.
'Pink Sunburst': This is a semi-dwarf canna with pink flowers above pink and green striped foliage.
'Durban': This medium to large cannas resembles Tropicana TM but had larger leaves and red flowers.
'Nirvana': This older semi-dwarf canna has yellow flowers above green and white striped foliage. It also goes by the name of ?Striped Beauty?. I got mine from the late Mattie Rosprim, a mutual friend of mine, Neil's, and Bill Welch's.
'Cleopatra': Another older variety with foliage that can be green, burgundy or striped and can produce either red or yellow flowers or some combination of both. It's quite a novelty. Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery calls it the schizophrenic canna.

King's Nursery, Hwy. 84 East, Tenaha, Texas 75974. 409-248-3811.

Mail Order:
Plant Delights Nursery, Inc. 9241 Sauls Road, Raleigh, North Carolina 27603. 919-772-4794. Catalog price: 10 stamps of a box of chocolates.