Pot’s Canna Lillies
If you buy one of the hardy canna lilies that Robert “Pots” and Patricia Pizzonia sell at the New Rochelle downtown Grand Market, the vibrant bloom – available through June – will not be the only life you’re supporting.
The Pizzonias raise and sell the flowers purely as a labor of love. All the proceeds go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation in Asheville, North Carolina, serving children and teenagers with brain tumor diagnoses.
The flowers offer a burst of color – mango, yellow, rose or a scarlet hue called “tropical bronze.” This year, the Pizzonias added an Italian version with petals that stand upright in a flourish of red bold enough to grace a Lamborghini.
You can find them at the New Rochelle downtown Grand Market among the abundant farm-fresh produce, smoked brisket, handmade soaps and other foods and artisanal offerings. The market runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October, at Ruby Dee Park on Library Green, next to the New Rochelle Public Library. But if you want a canna lily, you’ll have to act fairly soon. The Pizzonias plan to be at the market only through June, when the flowers have bloomed.
Robert Pizzonia began growing the flowers in his New Rochelle yard when he picked up a bunch from The Home Depot 11 or 12 years ago. They flourished and multiplied. Soon, with more than 100 on hand, Pizzonia began giving some away.
“If you’d come to my neighborhood, you’d know who my friends were because they all had canna lilies,” he said. In some cases, Pizzonia planted them in friends’ yards himself.
The idea of using them to raise funds for a good cause came when the Empire Chapter of Harley Owners Group – a community of Harley Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts Robert Pizzonia belongs to – held a benefit for the brain tumor foundation. Providing services for more than 28,000 children and teens diagnosed with a brain tumor, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is the world’s largest nonprofit agency dedicated solely to children and teenagers dealing with a brain tumor diagnosis, according to its website.
Several years ago, the Pizzonia’s raised about $1,000 selling the plants. By last year, they had multiplied that several times over: They raised $5,017, said Patricia Pizzonia, who handles sales and marketing. This year, they hope to break $6,000, she said.
The flowers bloom with such healthy, vibrant color (and the cause is so worthy) that a local nursery recently bought some of the flowers from the Pizzonias without even asking for a discount, she said. That’s not surprise. Canna lilies make a great garden plant, even for gardening novices. They keep their bloom for several months.
“In October, when other plants are starting to fade and go, these are still going.”
They won’t last through the winter outside (contact the Pizzonias through their website and they’ll offer tips on how to make them last) but in warmer weather, they don’t need much fussing over to survive.
“I tell my friends; ‘To kill them, you’d have to drive over them with your car,” Pizzonia said.