From a problem spot in the garden to a brilliantly colored canna lily collection

My favorite color of all my canna lilies, "Apricot Dream"
When I first started gardening here at Rosehaven Cottage, I was faced with a conundrum. Due to weird drainage issues in the back garden, I decided to work with the problem instead of against it and dug a pond. These drainage issues and the pond created a unique situation... an area with clay soil, boggy conditions and full sun. I went on a hunt for what would grow in these conditions, but found that not many bog plants love full sun... at least the kind of full sun we get around here in the height summer--intense blistering sun and rarely any summer rain.

That's when I discovered canna lilies. I knew of them as some really common varieties are grown a lot around the Bay Area in mass plantings. Most of those varieties are planted for their variegated or burgundy-tinged foliage. The variegated ones usually produce a bright orange flower. The burgundy-tinged foliage produce a brilliant scarlet flower. As I often do, I went on a hunt to see if there were other varieties besides what was always in stock at the big box and home improvement stores.

I first searched at our local nursery center and found the common varieties I was used to seeing. I bought some of the burgundy-tinged cannas with their brilliant scarlet red blooms to put in the area right by the pond and give it a go.

The cannas LOVED it! They liked have soggy feet and sun-scorched heads. In fact, they began propagating on their own rather quickly through an underground reproduction system similar to rhizome plants like iris. I was very pleased. I have really good luck with bulbs and rhizomes (not so much with seeds) so this seemed to be a good fit.

But I wanted more variety. And I wanted lush looking bright green foliage that looked like it came straight off a tropical island.

The color of watermelon!
I went to the trusty internet to find out what other colors canna lilies came in and to see if I could procure some. Hunting around I was in a tropical-lover's paradise. I felt like I'd been transported to my beloved Hawaiian island of O'ahu.

It was then that I knew I needed to have a canna lily garden with all my favorite varieties I was finding. I didn't want all the colors... just the ones that made me smile the moment I saw their photograph.

This color also reminds me of ripe juicy melon

This year is the first year that the canna lilies have really filled in the beds I created and they've put on the tropical color show I'd been envisioning when I ordered them over the internet.

Some grow in large pots that sit directly on the ground with a dripper in each connected to the entire drip-mist system that irrigates my drought-tolerent garden. Some are directly in the ground (with a dripper at the base of each) in a raised bed right next to the deck so when I lean over the railing I am met with an explosion of colors that rivals any crayola box. It amazes me because nothing else really wants to grow there. But the cannas do.

Canna lilies are sensitive to frost so they eventually wither up and turn brown some time in December. I leave the dead foliage on as frost protection until around early March. Then I gently cut it all back to find new green spears emerging from the old foliage. By May or June, I have beautiful green tropical foliage and the beginnings of the bloom that lasts all summer if I continue to deadhead them.

I couldn't be happier with the result. And each year the beds will get fuller and more beautiful because of the canna's propensity to self-propagate.

Not bad considering it all started out because I had a problem spot in the garden.
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  1. Great story about working WITH your situation instead of changing it to control it.

  2. I love this! It is such a lesson in working WITH the conditions in your garden instead of working against them. It's also a lesson that is hard to impress upon folks who are determined to have the garden in their imagination, despite the reality of their site.

    Your cannas are beautiful.

  3. Oh my gosh, you've made me fall in love with them all over again. Like you I want something different, not just the normal colors.

    Love what you have done, and the descriptions of those Canna's make me want to buy them today!

    I am putting them on my list for next year, our -30C winters will destroy them in no time. But next spring....

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  4. Those as amazing! And once again I am homesick for your cute house and the smell of the bay...sadness! Apparently I was meant to go to Maryland, but that doesn't mean I have been dreaming of Cali since winter!

  5. Cannas are so beautiful! Great post Cindy!

  6. These look absolutely gorgeous CIndy, what a great idea!


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