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CANNA: IN VIBRANT LIVING COLOR.

Byline: Joshua Siskin

Imagine a plant so voluptuous that, were you to stare at it for long, people would assume you were harboring lustful thoughts and improper desires.

The first time you saw the plant in question, your initial reaction would most probably be a negative one. ``No,'' you would say to yourself, ``they really have gone too far this time. Brash Technicolor and outlandish special effects should be confined to the movie screen; they have no place in the quiet, civilized, contemplative confines of the garden.''

Canna ``Tropicana'' is definitely not meant for timid horticultural souls. Its curvaceous foliage, bedizened with wavy chevrons of gold, burgundy and green, lights up the landscape. Canna Tropicana is the paradigm of what garden designers call an ``accent plant.'' Trust me, this plant will capture your attention like no other. And, as if its leaves were not enough of an attraction, its flowers - which happen to be a rich silky orange - add yet another dimension to its sensual appeal. Now is the time of year when Canna flowering reaches its peak.

Available in local nurseries for about a year and a half, Canna Tropicana has quickly become a best seller. Gardeners with a bold disposition have gone whole hog and, instead of placing it cautiously as an accent here or there, have installed it en masse to create a scene with instant tropical flair.

Growing to a height of 3 to 6 feet, Canna Tropicana combines well with birds of paradise, ginger lilies (Hedychium species) and ornamental banana trees. In particular, take note of the red Abyssinian bananas (Ensete ventricosum cultivars), which have crimson leaf stalks and red-edged leaves with discrete red markings on their upper surfaces, as Canna companions.

Cannas should be protected from the hottest sun of the day. In the Valley, they grow best in half-day sun, and better in morning rather than in afternoon sun. They are ideal for containers and may even be grown indoors, as long as they are exposed to four hours of good light each day. Cannas are sensitive to freezes and their rhizomes should be dug up and stored prior to winter in the Antelope Valley. In the San Fernando Valley, they will stay in leaf throughout a mild winter, dying back to the ground in the case of a cold snap but returning to their full glory the following year.

Tip of the week: Do not make the mistake of putting Canna flowers in a cut flower arrangement; they will quickly wilt. People make this mistake since Cannas have a strong resemblance to irises, which do make excellent cut flowers. Instead, use the abundant foliage of the Canna for flower arrangements. Canna leaves are tall and wide, making an excellent background green for cut roses, zinnias, snapdragons or, for that matter, irises.

GARDEN WONDER

GARDENER: Irving and Norma Neuman

RESIDENCE: Simi Valley

PLANT OF INTEREST: Sago palm

WHAT MAKES THIS PLANT AMAZING: The Neumans have had their Sago palm for 20 years. Recently, a pod ``like a basketball'' has come out from the center of the plant, according to Irving. The pod is 14 inches in diameter, ``sort of blond, and with all these curly things on it,'' he says by way of description.

``I've showed it to about 20 people, and no one's ever heard of it,'' he adds.

MAINTENANCE: ``The palm is next to my koi pond, and above the pond we have a misting machine. But I don't know if that mister is really doing anything to the palm,'' Irving says.

WHAT THE CHATSWORTH NURSERY CENTER SAYS: ``That's very normal - 20 years is the normal seed time. It's a female plant. If the pod isn't fertilized by a male, you can cut it off, or it will rot away.''

- Mike Chmielecki

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Norma and Irving Neuman with their unusual-looking 20-year-old Sago palm.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 16, 2000
Words:650
Previous Article:HANG TIME BRING YOUR BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS UP TO EYE LEVEL.
Next Article:YOUR PLACE.


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