Our plant family is welcoming a new addition this summer: Canna ‘Longwood Simply Salmon’! This canna was bred here at Longwood and is being released commercially under the Longwood Gardens name. Canna is a genus of large tropical and sub-tropical rhizomatous perennial plants with showy flowers and foliage. Canna ‘Longwood Simply Salmon’ is a compact, virus-free cultivar with showy, salmon-colored flowers.
Cannas have a strong presence at Longwood, as a favorite feature in our summer display. They also have a long history within our Research division. Robert Armstrong, Ph.D., began the canna breeding program at Longwood Gardens in 1967. His work led to the release of 16 cultivars between 1972 and 1985, some of which are still commercially available. The breeding program was rebooted in 2008 starting with seeds taken from open pollination crosses. These crosses occurred naturally by growing plants outdoors and allowing insects to cross-pollinate the plants. The resulting seedlings were grown and went through Longwood Gardens’ plant trial process.
Several years ago, we sent selections from the initial group of seedlings to Plant Haven, a company specializing in the release and marketing of new plant cultivars. Not all of these selections were commercially viable but Longwood Gardens, Plant Haven, and a tissue culture nursery named Oglesby Plants International decided to move forward with a commercial release of Canna ‘Longwood Simply Salmon.’
Releasing a plant into the commercial trade offers us some amazing opportunities, including the chance to highlight the role of plant research and breeding at Longwood Gardens. Breeding at Longwood began in the late 1950s and Longwood has been associated with over 120 plant releases.
The Longwood Research team has an interesting challenge when it comes to refining canna characteristics. The team balances the Longwood Gardens’ display needs with the desire to create new and unique cultivars that are commercially viable. Display designers at Longwood prefer tall plants, but short compact plants are more commercially successful. Because Canna ‘Longwood Simply Salmon’ is compact, it is more suited for commercial release.
Another challenge that our Research team has been working to overcome is viruses. Cannas are susceptible to three damaging plant viruses: bean yellow mosaic virus, canna yellow streak virus, and canna yellow mottle virus. Our early research efforts continually focus on removing viruses from our infected plants and developing new virus-free cannas, and Canna ‘Longwood Simply Salmon’ is virus-free.
The future of canna breeding at Longwood Gardens is bright; the program is ongoing and will continue to evolve. This evolution is likely to involve the use of cutting-edge techniques to develop new and different foliage forms.
Longwood Gardens uses many varieties of cannas in both indoor and outdoor displays. This summer, Canna ‘Longwood Simply Salmon’ can be seen in the Trial Garden. You can also find it for sale in The GardenShop.
If you want to learn more about plant research and breeding here at Longwood Gardens, check out the About Our Plants section of the website!