Photos by Paul Carter
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When we first began corresponding with Chris Bailey, Head Gardener of the Staunton Country Park near Havant, Hampshire, England, in 2002, we somehow pictured Staunton as a relaxing (maybe even sleepy) place to stroll on a Sunday afternoon. The garden has a rich historical past, especially with Victoria, but is also a vibrant garden of the future. Staunton is located near England's south coast.
The Staunton Country Park is a municipal park with public gardens, tropical glasshouses, ornamental farm, woodlands and a purposely-built tropical lily house. The park was the creation of Sir George Thomas Staunton (1781-1859) who designed the pleasure grounds in the late Regency to early Victorian era.
Victoria amazonica was first flowered at the park on the 28 August 1853, one of the earliest flowerings recorded, and the Park will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of this event in 2003. I've looked in the historical book about the park to locate any references about this first flowering.
To quote from the 1853 Staunton records -
I used to cultivate Victoria as a student at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. At Staunton Country Park I have been growing Victoria for the past six years. During this period no problems have arisen in the germination or subsequent transplanting to the main Tropical Lily Pool. The following points are how we grow Victoria `Longwood Hybrid' at the Park. This is what has been successful in our particular conditions under glass.
Growing Medium: I use the same growing medium for the germination as for the eventual planting display container. This consists of a good quality garden loam (top-soil) that has been sterilised and screened to three-eighths of an inch.
Germination: I start the Victorias in a galvanised tank of approximately 100 gallons capacity. The water temperature is maintained at approximately 27-32 degrees Celsius (80-90F) until germination takes place. The water is heated using standard aquarium water heaters rated at 300 watts with electronic thermostats. The seeds are sown in plastic 5 and a half inch size half pots to which a plastic sheet is added and cut to line the base of the pot. The pots are filled then watered and Victoria is then sowed to its own seed depth. A grit consisting of particle size 3 - 5 millimetres is then used to lightly cover the pots. The initial depth of the water surface to the top of the pot is approx. 4-6 inches. Upon germination this level is gradually lowered in accordance with the seedlings growth.
Supplementary Light: Given England's wonderful climate (if only) I use additional lighting consisting of a 400 watt grow-lamp connected to a timer switch set to provide 12 hours of light per day (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
The ambient air temperature of the glasshouse used to germinate the Vics is maintained at 16 degrees Celsius (61F). The seeds germinate on average between 9 - 18 days. Only one seed failed to germinate in 2002.
Potting On: This is judged by the seedlings' root growth. The seedlings are moved to a 9 inch square aquatic lily pot. From this the chosen Vic is selected and transplanted to the main Tropical Lily Pool. Maintaining the young Vic's crown and growing point at the same consistent level is important. Water temperature averages 30.6 degrees Celsius (87F).