Waterlily: Queen of the Pond
‘How stainless it rises from its slimy bed. How modestly it reposes on the clear pool, an emblem of purity and truth. Symmetrically perfect, its subtle perfume is wafted far and wide; while there it rests in spotless state, something to be regarded reverently from a distance, and not to be profaned by familiar approach.’
Thus wrote the eleventh century Chinese author Chou Tun-I in an eloquent passage which describes so perfectly this magnificent aquatic. Yet the waterlilies grown at that time were fairly ordinary white and yellow species. One, therefore, speculates as to what he would write if he could see the wealth of colour and diversity of form available to the modern gardener.
There are now hardy varieties that are suitable for growing in anything from an old kitchen sink to a lake, and in double, semi-double and single-flowered forms in every colour except blue. However, as there are a number of blue-flowered tropical species it is probably only a matter of time before this colour too is infused into hardy stock. Foliage is from light green to bronze, plain or speckled. It may be the diameter of a small coin or the size of a dinner plate. The variation amongst waterlilies is unending and gives immense scope to the skilful planter.
Several varieties provide excellent cut, particularly those derived from the North American species odorata. Some flower arrangers float the cut blossoms on a bowl of water, while others make an attractive arrangement with cut foliage inserted into a floral wire holder which is totally submerged. Unfortunately, most waterlily blooms close on the evening of the first day that they are cut and never re-open. This can be remedied by standing the freshly cut blossoms in iced water for an hour or so. Such a severe shock prevents them from ever closing again. Alternatively, a spot of melted candle wax can be dropped at the base of the petals where they meet the stamens. This forms an unobtrusive wedge which prevents the flower from closing.