Waterlilies and lotuses have been described as exotic, fragrant and perennially enticing aquatic plants for a garden pond. But there are many different varieties and it can be hard knowing how to choose which will suit your situation. Stephen Westcott-Gratton spent his early childhood in Kashmir near the Dal Lake whose shallows are covered in lotus blooms in late summer and so knows plenty about these aquatic beauties. I found his article on the Canadian Gardening website.
Water plants and I go way back: I spent my early childhood in Srinagar, Kashmir, where the shallow edges of Dal Lake are covered in lotus blooms in July and August.
Known as the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), it has been cultivated for thousands of years and is revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike. All parts of the plant are edible, and lotuses are even able to adjust the temperature of their flowers to attract pollinators (lotus flowers may be up to 25?C warmer than the surrounding air), a process known as ?thermoregulation.?
Then, during my fifth summer, my parents bought a cottage in the Muskoka region of central Ontario. One of my father?s annual chores was to pull out bucketfuls of fragrant waterlily (Nymphaea odorata ssp. tuberosa) rhizomes to clear a boating channel from our sandy, shallow bay to the larger lake beyond. My mother turned this ?water-weeding? into a cottage filled with bowls of floating, fragrant white waterlilies framed by fern fronds.
All to say, I have a seriously sentimental spot for these showy aquatic blooms. And the really good news is that even if you garden on an apartment balcony, the pristine flowers of waterlilies and lotuses are well within your reach. Many cultivars from either genus can live for years in a half barrel: All you need is plenty of sunshine and warm summer temperatures. The roots of both plants can be overwintered in a container full of moist sand in a cool basement or porch (5?C to 10?C is ideal).
Waterlilies and lotuses are like the hybrid tea roses of the water garden; their blooms are equally showy, and they are considerably less prone to disease and insect pests. Every couple of years, the rhizomes should be divided, retaining the active growth tip sections and discarding dead ones. Purchasing your plants and equipment from a water garden specialist will ensure you receive expert advice, whether you?re planning a lake, a miniature tabletop tub or something in between.
Most of the waterlilies and lotuses that we grow today are large-flowered hybrids that come in a wide range of colours. Surprisingly, these modern cultivars are principally the work of just two breeders, an ocean away and a century apart.
See more at Canadian Gardening