The washout summers of the last three years have brought Britain’s most endangered butterflies to the brink of extinction, a study reveals.
Two of the UK’s rarest species – the Duke of Burgundy and Lulworth skipper – had their worst years on record in 2009, according to the annual survey by Butterfly Conservation.
At Claines Canna we have also come to the conclusion that growing tropical Cannas outdoors in this weather is quite futile, as during last summer we gained little pleasure from watching Cannas grow with badly damaged leaves and very few flowers. However, some still gave us a good display, and they were all specimens that had been raised in Northern Europe and were more tolerant of these weather conditions.
We experimented last year with growing both Canna species and cultivars in one of our large poly tunnels, and we were pleased to see how they thrived.
This year we have reduced the size of the collection, disposing of the more common varieties grown by commercial breeders, and the more tender will be grown in the controlled conditions provided by the tunnel.
As far as the breeding programme is concerned, that takes place on separate premises, but we have now added as a high priority the need to breed new varieties that can tolerate months of non-stop rainy days, as we experienced last year.
Our starting point is the old German nursery of Wilhelm Pfitzer, who raised hundreds of new varieties in similar weather conditions over the course of a century, and we have added some of their varieties to the breeding plan to establish what difference they can make.