Garden Photo of the Day

137-Year-Old Cannas

Keeping a family heirloom flowering each year

Today we’re in Gothenburg, Nebraska, visiting Kristi Kreuscher’s garden.

These cannas originated in Germany. My husband’s great-great grandparents brought cannas with them when they emigrated from Germany in 1883. They planted them on both sides of their driveway on their farm near DeWitt, Nebraska, and everyone enjoyed them. The family has continued to grow them for the past 137 years. About 10 years ago, my father-in-law asked me if I wanted some of the family cannas. I wasn’t even aware of their importance and the story behind them until then, even though I’d been in the family for over 20 years. I told him I’d take “a few,” so he gave me 13 bulbs. They reproduce quite well, as we store 30 to 35 boxes of them each fall and we’ve given away hundreds of bulbs over the last several years.

row of cannasWe plant the bulbs in two rows in a 75-foot strip in front of our house. This means cutting them off and then digging them each year after the freeze to store them in our garage, because they are tropical (Zones 7–10). My sister-in-law lives in Tampa, so she doesn’t ever have to dig her cannas. The judge at our county fair told me that we have really created our own hybrid, because we’ve continued to replant our own canna bulbs every year. I received a “Best of Show” award at the county fair for my canna flower two years ago.

raised garden bedThe third picture is of our “rock garden,” which has a fake rock that covers our well. It contains a variety of grasses, lilies, geraniums, irises, daylilies, and many other flowers. The tallest plant in the back on the right side is a blue false indigo (Baptisia australis, Zones 3–10), which produces shoots of purple flowers in the spring. The seedpods turn dark maroon in the fall.

spiderwortThe other tall plant is a blue spiderwort, also known as the trinity flower (Tradescantia, Zones 4–9). I really like growing perennial flowers.

peonies in a vaseThe irises and peonies in my flowerbeds mostly came from my grandmother’s beds. I have transplanted some of them to cemeteries when the original ones she planted years ago no longer grew.

little bluestemThis picture shows our decorative windmill and a portion of the native grass area around our house (mainly little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, Zones 3–9). We recently added a strip of wildflowers that consists of coreopsis, rudbeckia, daisies, partridge pea, asters, and many more.

star of good hope flowerA unique flower that I received from a friend is the star of good hope flower (Ornithogalum saundersiae, Zones 7–10). These grow 4 to 6 feet tall and put out these amazing flowers. In Nebraska, of course, they must be dug each fall.


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View Comments


  1. alicefleurkens 11/09/2020

    We never had them in our garden in Holland where I come from, so interesting she would have brought them from Germany. Of course none of that plant bringing today.

  2. Carolyn3134 11/09/2020

    Wow! I love all of your projects! Kudos!!

  3. nwphillygardener 11/09/2020

    There is something truly spiritual in the care taking of plants through generations. It's especially more noble when it involved annual digging and saving of things that are not winter hardy. Replanting peonies in the cemetery surely speaks volumes toward Kristi's symbolic acts. To bring the plants rather than just a bouquet to the cemetery tells of a spiritual connection to the gardening efforts of those who have gone before us. Kudos, Kristi!

    1. Musette1 11/09/2020

      I can't write it any better than this, newphilly!

  4. User avater
    cynthia2020 11/09/2020

    Hi, Kristi. I appreciate you sharing your special gardening stories. The cannas are so healthy and beautiful. I love the photo of the bouquet, and thank you for introducing me to Ornithogalum saundersiae.

  5. btucker9675 11/09/2020

    Beautiful story and plants! Also glad to learn about the star of good hope.

  6. cheryl_c 11/09/2020

    Thank you for reminding us of the heritage we all carry forward by using plants that have been in the family! I was so pleased that I'd given away starts from family plants (my grandmother's Christmas cactus!), as when we lost our home to fire, family members were able to give me starts from those same plants. Thanks for your uplifting message.

  7. User avater
    simplesue 11/10/2020

    I LOVE your Story on the Cannas- that was so interesting to me! When I was little in Iowa my grandpa who had German ancestry always planted them and it was one of the earliest childhood memories of a garden, and walking in the rows of them way above my head.
    How interesting that you have now created your own hybrid after all theses year by them reproducing!
    The bouquet of peonies, iris just gorgeous!

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