03 November 2010

Canarina canariensis

I am quite deliriously excited about my Canarina canariensis.

I've been busily watching the flower bud slowly, slowly, developing, starting as green blob
Flushing orange

And finally, just this past week, bursting into its full, dramatic form.

I'm nuts about it, for the very simple reason that it is in the family Campanulaceae, and it isn't blue. This may seem odd, especially as long-time readers may recall the time I went ga-ga over a species of impatiens simply because it IS blue. But somehow, that is how I am. Give my a bunch of impatiens, all dressed in lovely pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows, and I dive for the only blue one. Presented with an entire family of Campanulas, codonopsis, and platycodon, all in shades of blue (aside from a few insignificant whites and pinks), I instantly and eagerly search out the one genus with yellows and oranges.

And what a marvelous yellow and orange it is... The veining and delicate shadings... I could stare at it for hours.

Indeed, I have stared at it for hours. I first came in contact with this plant when I ordered some seeds from the Rare Plants in Germany. I ordered a completely different set of seeds, but along with my order they sent me a little note pad with each page printed with the image of a Canarina canariensis flower. I took this pad of paper to various meetings, ostensibly to take notes, but instead ignored everything that was being said (my usual practice in such situations) and stared at that picture of the Canarina flower... So lovely. I must have one.

So I googled it. First I found out, of course, that it isn't hardy, can't even take a frost. But I grow all sorts of things that aren't hardy. Surely I could grow it outside in the summer and winter it indoors? I read further, and found out it becomes a sprawling vine growing to over 6 feet (2 meters). A difficult thing to shove into my increasingly crowded windows. But I was still hopeful. Then I read that in is native land, the Canary Islands, it is dormant during the dry summers, and only grows during the winter. Practically hopeless. I can grow tender plants provided they are happy to grow in the summer and retire to dormancy or near-dormancy in a cool corner of the house in the winter. But without a greenhouse, there is no way I could grow this delightful plant to flowering.

So I firmly told myself to forget it, not to bother, it would only lead to heart break.

Then I went to another meeting, and stared at those same images on the paper pad, and thought, "I bet it can pull it off... a sunny window... maybe I can trick it with careful watering and get it to grow in the summer and sleep in the winter." In short, this spring I ordered seeds, and planted them.

All this summer, the results looked sad. I started with 4 seedlings, but over the summer, two died, and the other two just sort of sat there. They grew, but barely. Then, as fall came on, I realized my mistake. I had hoped I could trick them into growing in the summer simply by keeping them watered, as their native summer is very dry, but they were cleaverer than that -- they were observing the daylength. As long as the days were long and summery, they refused to grow, but as soon as the days got shorter in the fall, they lept into action, growing like crazy, with one plant setting a single flower bud, as you have seen.

Which is all very good, but that brief window of warm fall days is over, and now I have them in my sunniest window. They're still growing (though so far only one flower) but beginning to look a bit stretched and unhappy with the low light. And it is only going to get darker and colder... I think I can keep them alive, but I fear they'll be so straggly they'll never want to flower again.

So I've hatched a plan. Next summer, I am going to buy a couple large trash cans, plop them over the plants every day in the late afternoon, and leave them there until the next morning -- thereby blocking out the sun for several hours so they will THINK it is fall or winter, and keep on growing and perhaps -- hopefully, hopefully -- flowering! Logically, I know this course of action makes no sense. I am growing them because they are beautiful, yet now I'm planning to, as soon as I get home from work, cover them with a large, extremely ugly, garbage can, and leave that cover in place until I leave for work the next morning. In other words, whenever I am home, my garden is going to look like garbage day in a wind storm. But I will know that under those garbage cans is a mass of lovely flowers, flowers I will get a glimpse of when I first get home from work, and which I will be able to gloat over every weekend. Some people, no doubt, will wonder at this... after all, there are loads of other plants with similar, or even more amazing, orange flowers which don't require elaborate trash can schemes. But, as I've said before, I'm not sensible, and have no desire to be so. I'm in love.


Keith said...

Congrats on your bloom!
Why hot site them along a shaded area next year and roll a plastic cover over them instead. This should allow for plenty of growth, but also allow some air circulation around the plants to discourage fungal infection...

mr_subjunctive said...

My first thought with a situation like that would be to get an artificial light and a timer. True, it'd be hard to find an artificial light big enough to cover six-foot vines, but if the alternative is covering a six-foot vine with a plastic bag daily, a shop light or two seems to me like the lesser evil. . . .

danger garden said...

Ah...you crack me up! And I love your dedication to the one you love. Sometimes there is just no explaining why we do the things we do.

Joseph said...

I tried using a tarp to cover my teosinte (wild relative of corn -- and a short-day plant) this year to get it to flower earlier, and it didn't work because it wasn't opaque enough. It was also a HUGE pain to haul on and off the plants. A friend used a trashcan to get tropical bean varieties to flower earlier, so I'm going to steal their idea.

Mr. S, Yeah, I could use an artificial light to keep them happier in the house in the winter. If things don't go well next summer with the trash can, I might try it next year.

Jennifer AKA keewee said...

Certainly worth the wait. It is such a lovely color.

Liz said...

I like your quest and wish you luck!

Nic said...

Congratulations on that flower! Canarinas do look really cool and I had never even heard of them before. I also fully understand the impulse to have to grow something that seems impossible...for me it has always been half the fun of gardening.

Unknown said...

you had better luck with your Canary Island plant than I did with my Isoplexis canariensis seeds (Canary Island foxglove). My little seedlings were limping along and kept getting reduced by accidents. I finally had just two little guys left that got to 4" and didn't look so fragile. One succumbed to heat and drought, the other succumbed to my curious 4 year old.

Joseph said...

I grew Isoplexis canariensis a couple years ago... it was pretty, but I didn't over winter it.

Unknown said...

after seeing this post I noticed that Cistus here in Portland carries Canarina and an Isoplexis.