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.
By Mauro Bergamo - Photos © Water
Preserving the Collection
& Creations of
from Guida ai Vivai 1988
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
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.
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.
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!
- Calvisi Gallery Index
Water Plants Italy Web Site