A Housewife’s Love Affair with Cannas
For Emma Gonzales, 52, of Silang, Cavite, nothing can be more satisfying than to wake up in the morning and be greeted by the colorful Canna flowers that she has been painstakingly cultivating for years now. What’s more, she has discovered that there is more to this easy-to-grow floriferous plant than its colorful, year-round flowers that continue to amaze plant lovers.
Emma’s love affair with Canna, also known as Bandera Espanola started eleven years ago when she first attempted to grow this plant in her frontyard which is along the road. “All I wanted then was to grow ornamental plants simply because I love flowers,” she recalls.
Originally, she was into orchids but had to stop because of her migraine which worsened every time she sprayed fertilizers and pesticides on the plants. She also planted gerberas but it did not last long because she had found out that these easily die especially when there is continuous rainfall. With Canna, which is propagated by rhizomes, Emma was confident that she could do very well because she initially learned that it is one of those low-maintenance garden plants that anyone can easily grow sans chemical pesticides.
Starting with three local varieties and ten imported ones which she acquired from a local grower in Davao, Emma has since dedicated herself to the propagation of this plant and eventually discovered that there is money in it. Passers-by who were amazed by these colorful flowers started to buy some of her plants, which later opened an unexpected opportunity for her.
To accommodate the growing demand for her Canna, Emma had to increase her growing area as well. With the help of her husband Eduardo, 55, a mechanical engineering graduate who, by that time, had just come from Middle East where he worked as a technical superintendent, she has transferred her Canna to the area at the back of their house. This was previously planted to pineapple, papaya and banana.
At the same time, Emma has learned to breed Canna, which she says, never ceases to produce new varieties. “Every year, new varieties are developed,” she added. It is not surprising, therefore, that her collection now boasts of almost 500 different varieties, mostly crosses of imported varieties, including the tall and dwarf types.
Imported varieties sell from P100-P500 each, depending on the type and number of flowers per plant. A single plant for sale has two suckers and a flower. The more the number of flowers, the more expensive the variety, especially if it is not yet among the collections of other breeders. Old varieties, on the other hand, sell at P20 per sucker.
Relatively, Emma has proven that Cannas grow well under Silang’s conditions. In fact, being a versatile plant, it can grow anywhere on its own. But to Emma, she fertilizes her plants with nitrogenous fertilizers for them to produce beautiful and healthy flowers the year round. She said that Cannas perform well with twice a year fertilization or a maximum of once in every two months.
To conserve moisture and prevent weeds, Emma uses the dried leaves and cut stalks as mulch for the plants. In the process, these also serve as nourishment for the plants because they add organic matter to the soil once decayed. “Nothing is wasted,” she quipped.
Emma’s winning business strategy is her hands-on involvement in growing her plants. “Except from a hired laborer who does physical farm-related tasks, I personally tend to my plants in every aspect of production,” she shared. Thus she has managed to maintain the quality of her plants, assuring her buyers that they get only the best varieties from her.
Moreover, Emma never fails to come up with new varieties with rare beautiful colors and variegations that excite her growing number of clients which include landscapers, breeders, gardeners, resort owners and hobbyists, among others, not only in Cavite but also in other provinces and Metro Manila.
At present, Canna occupies a total of one-half hectare around the Gonzales house. “We would ‘like to have a bigger area so that we could grow more Cannas,” says Eduardo, who has been Emma’s partner in running the family’s canna business. This venture has been very good to them that they were able to send their six children to college and afford other comforts in life.
Indeed, Emma has mastered the science of propagating Bandera Espanola. She has proven that with dedication, one can make big success from a humble beginning.