Sunday, April 5, 2009


Nympheas ,Claude Monet ,1916 ,Musee Marmottan ,Paris

Nympheas, Claude Monet, 1920-1926, Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris

When I think of waterlilies, I always associate them with the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet(1840-1926) and visiting, not only his garden at Giverny but going to the Tuileries Palace at the Place de la Concorde in Paris to see the vast mural like paintings of them in the Musee de l'Orangerie.The paintings have a dream like quality which leave a lasting impression.
The other person I think of when it comes to waterlilies is the great English horticulturist Frances Perry who was described by Anna Pavord as 'one of the tribal elders of the horticultural world' Her books on water gardening and horticulture are worth seeking out and are great reading and reference books.

Frances Perry (1907-1993)

The three main sorts of waterlilies are the Hardy (European), Tropicals ,and Night blooming types.
There are many hundreds of varieties of these available and it is worth contacting a specialist grower to buy them from .The expert of note in Australia is Nick Romanowski of Dragonfly Aquatics (RMB AB 366 Colac, Victoria 3249 ph 03 52366320) who has written many books on water gardening . In New South Wales it is worth contacting Wallis Creek Watergarden .
From my experience,I have found waterlilies fairly easy to grow as long as you can place them in a pot at least 25cm or more in diameter and they have at least 25 to 50 cm of water over them. They also need still water and don't like to have a fountain or pump too close to them . They need re- potting every 2 or 3 years or so and if they form a dense leafy thicket ,as in the photo below ,you know the time has come to thin them out and replant.. The traditional method of planting them is into a heavy clay soil with added well rotted cow manure as fertilizer. This is still a good way of planting them but tablet style fertilizer pellets have made it a bit easier to maintain a good supply of nutrients and ensure plenty of flowers.

Congested waterlilies ready for thinning out

Pink flowering tropical waterlilies in Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

A white flowering Hardy variety in a Sydney garden still in flower in autumn

A miniature yellow variety from my last garden

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