Article from Proceedings of the International Conference on Plant Hardiness 1904.
MY EXPERIENCE IN HYBRIDIZING CANNAS
By Antoine Wintzer, West Grove, Pa.
It is about nine years since the writer first commenced to experiment with cannas, with the object of improving the strain and creating some new and desirable varieties suitable for our trying climate. At that time we depended almost entirely on the skill of the European growers for our novelties in cannas, and they sent us annually a great many new varieties.
While some of these novelties were good, a great many were little, if any, improvement, on existing varieties. After growing a few seedlings from the best strains, the writer commenced to cross breed with the intention of producing a good solid yellow canna. There were plenty of spotted yellows, but we desired something purer. In 1893, from a batch of Crozy and Star-of-1891 seedlings. I was fortunate in getting one almost yellow. It was named Golden Star. The next year I succeeded in growing from another lot of seedlings another almost pure yellow; it was named Coronet.
By crossing these two varieties I succeeded in producing Buttercup. This variety seems to have the desirable qualities long looked for in a yellow canna. It is rather dwarf, an early and free bloomer, erect head held well above the foliage, endures the sun without bleaching, drops its faded flowers, which always gives it a bright and clean appearance. It will also bloom under a lower temperature than most varieties, and last, but not least, its tubers are small and solid, making it especially valuable for pot culture.
Besides the yellow, I was also desirous to grow some good pink varieties. To enable me to get these I had a good start with Pink Ehmani, which I raised in 1894 from seed hybridized by Dr. Van Fleet. Having a start in color, I hybridized it with other varieties, and produced Maiden’s Blush. Rosemawr, Martha Washington, Betsy Ross. The main difficulty found in the varieties of this color was the poor keeping quality of the tubers. In the earlier varieties they were soft and spongv and liable to rot in a dormant condition, long before the weather was warm enough to plant them in spring. The last two named varieties are free from this bad habit. They usually produce small hard tubers of good keeping quality. After breeding cannas for a few years, I noticed that it was desirable to produce small and solid tubers.
A great deal of this work is still in its infancy, but we are slowly advancing along that line. In the early ’90s there were several good red cannas in commerce, and any one at that time looking over the leading catalogs and reading the description of such varieties as Alphonse Bouvier, would wonder how a more brilliant color could be produced, and I often longed for the shade of red we had in such roses.