Editor's note : We have only recently become aware of this quite remarkable collection of waterlilies and other aquatic plants in Italy. The name Manlio Calvisi has showed up only once in all our years of research on waterlily and lotus names, for his Nelumbo cultivar 'Mario Zanfardino', not for his waterlily hybrids or his extensive collection. When we asked about this, Mauro said that Calvisi did most of his collecting and hybridizing in the 1980's, before the Internet, and was somewhat isolated. Fortunately for all of us, Mauro is changing that! Galleries linked below feature many older varieties not often seen today in cultivation.

Mauro Bergamo

 Mauro Bergamo

Preserving the Collection
& Creations of

Manlio Calvisi

Manlio Calvisi
Guida ai Vivai 1988

By Mauro Bergamo - Photos © Water Plants Italy
Click images to enlarge

In a small and out-of-the way place in the region Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy's northeastern corner, Manlio Calvisi dedicated soul and body to his large passions. In the early 1970's Manlio reared tropical fishes. He was able to reproduce many different species of fresh-water fishes. He was a capable craftsman and he built many aquariums, obtaining for this large acknowledgments. After an inspiring visit to the well-known French nursery Latour-Marliac, he decided to dedicate himself to water plant cultivation.

Nursery Calvisi, now Water Plants Italy
Gallery of more images of the nursery

He turned 3500 square meters of vineyard in one of the most important water plant nurseries in Europe. During his activity he introduced in his nursery many species of marsh plants, hardy waterlilies, tropical waterlilies and lotuses, cleverly increasing the number of basins.

He invented a very effective way of building those cement basins so that they had the necessary strength and water-tightness for the winter. He also built greenhouses to protect tropical waterlilies which he had obtained in the United States. At that time there was no information about Nymphaea cultivation so the risk of losing precious bulbs was very high. In the summer season you can still

admire spectacular blooming from 'Jack Wood's' red-purple to 'Director George T. Moore's' dark blue, from 'Yellow Dazzler's' soft canary to many other colours. 

In the 1980's the M. Calvisi Nursery became very well known in the water plant cultivators' community for creating different hybrids of nympheas and lotus such as: Nymphaea 'Furio Ersetti' (a hardy medium-sized waterlily with white cup-shaped flowers), Nymphaea 'Dr. G. Cassina' (a deep blue tropical) and Nelumbo 'Mario Zanfardino' (like a small 'Alba Grandiflora'). I have named a beautiful capensis-type hybrid that I found in the greenhouse in his honor, N. 'Manlio Calvisi'.

N. 'Furio Ersetti'

N. 'Dr. G. Cassina'

N. 'Mario Zanfardino'

N. 'Manlio Calvisi'

In the middle 1980's, M. Calvisi found another passion: tortoises. This is what led us to become friends. Our friendship developed my knowledge in this specific subject, which was my hobby since I was a child. My first aquarium and my first tortoise were given to me by my father when I was 8 years old. Since then both have always been part of my life.

 Victoria in 1985
 Going on, Manlio also tested cultivation of the most majestic and exacting member of the waterlily family, Victoria. In the M. Calvisi nursery, V. amazonica, cruziana and 'Longwood Hybrid' grew pads as large as 2 meters and some had to be cut off.

Victoria in 2004
More Victoria images

In 2000 M. Calvisi died. His work and passion were going to be lost, and to prevent this I succeeded him in the management of the nursery. For me it has been a large opportunity because, for lack of space, I never was able to cultivate many varieties of pond plants even though I lived near the Nursery Calvisi. I had a way to observe and to learn. I also deepened other passions: tropical fish and the tortoises.

About aquariums I have reared a lot of species of fish: Caracidi, Ciprinidi, Anabantidi etc… my favorites are the Ciclidi from African lakes and those from South America like the Discus. In the outdoor aquariums and with calm fish I was able to cultivate plants like: Echinodorus, Cryptocorine, Rotala, Eleocharis, Ludvigia, Althernantera and others. Using some mercury lamps I was able to obtain the flowering of tropical water lilies like Nymphaea lotus, rubra, Director Moore and Daubenyana.

Early in the 1990's I decided to open a shop of fish and reptiles. This allowed me to buy wholesale and to experience a lot more in the water world. Simultaneously I had a lot of species of tortoises and succeeded in reproducing varied species like: Geochelone sulcata, Geochelone elegans, Trachemys scripta, Chrysemys picta and all the European Testudo. Now I rear these creatures divided between the nursery and my house. This is more difficult but it is worth the trouble. I have managed Water Plants Italy for five years now, am cultivating about 450 species of marsh plants, floating plants, hardy and tropical waterlilies, lotus and I intend to grow!

Bergamo - Calvisi Gallery Index
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