Tag Archives: aquatic plants

The exotica of water lilies

If I believed in woo-woo (or, at least, that plants can sense what humans are saying), I might think that the appearance of this charming, little lemon water lily flower was because of my threats made over the past few months. The plant came into our possession about ten years ago and it has lived in a vintage pot ever since without flowering. Maybe three years ago, I took it out, reduced some bulk, raised it higher in the pot and gave it some new compost mix. Nothing happened. It just put up its usual leaves. I declared this year – probably in its hearing – that this was its last year. If it didn’t flower, I would cast it out and find something more obliging to grow instead.

And lo, this flower appeared and it has won a reprieve. It is a very pretty little flower. Water lilies do have lovely blooms with a pristine purity of form.

The vintage water pump is, I admit, merely ornamental in this situation.

We have water lilies in assorted bodies of water. The purest white one in a round pond on the side law is the best, I think. A white waterlily is the national flower of Bangladesh but looking at the photos, while similar, I think it is a more tropical form than this one.

The setting
The one in the goldfish pond at the bottom of the sunken garden is a bit murky in colour

I don’t find them the world’s most exciting bloom but they have an exotic beauty to them. I looked them up to see where their homelands are and I see they are broadly spread across the globe ‘in temperate and tropical climates’ which is pretty sweeping. They are a bit more complex than I expected though, if I am honest, I would admit I have not given them a lot of thought. Their plant family is Nymphaeaceae and I will never remember how to spell that with all it’s ‘a’s and ‘e’s. There are about 5 genera in that family and maybe 70 different species which don’t all look the same as the ones we grow. That is quite a lot of different species. As far as I can see, the ones we see here are from the nymphaea group.

The bigger growing forms we have in ponds in the Wild North Garden are lovely but they need occasional intervention to reduce their spread or we would have no visible water remaining

Water lilies grow from rhizomes rooted in soil so they only grow in fairly shallow water. Many years ago, we went to visit two ‘water gardens’. In fact, they were water lily gardens. I can’t recall other aquatic plants. That is where I learned that some varieties can be such strong growers that they will entirely cover the water surface if they are not restricted. A mass of water lilies without visible water reflecting, shimmering and rippling to frame the plant is not actually that aesthetically pleasing or exciting to see.

The loveliest water lilies I have seen were in the Xishuangbanna botanical gardens in southern China. They were held up above the water on longer stems and I think this makes them a different genera to the common nymphaea types we grow here. “They’re tropical,” Mark said, but he may have been generalising from the fact that it was hot and many of the plants we were looking at there were very tropical. I have no idea if that type is even in NZ.

This week at least, I am happy that the pretty lemon one has flowered after a very long wait.