I live in some dread of the hybridiser and watch his ways with misgiving in breaking down the distinctions of natural species. Though we gain enormously by raising seedling forms, the results of hybridising distinct species are not so great a gain to hardy shrubs and flowers. I very much prefer a wild Sweet Brier to a hybridised one, and many hybrids are poor and ugly, but we owe a deep debt of gratitude to M. Latour Marliac, who has given us an addition to our hardy garden flora which cannot be over estimated. He has added the large and noble forms and the soft and lovely colour the Eastern Water Lilies to the garden waters of northern countries. If this merely meant a gain of the beauty of the individual flower, our debt would be great and we would have good reason for gratitude but it is not only that. The splendid beauty of these plants will lead people to think of true and artistic ways of adorning garden waters. Our own poor Water Lily was always neglected and rarely very effective, except in a wild state (though I have once or twice seen picturesque effects from it, as at Middleton Hall), but when people see that they may have in England the soft and beautiful yellow and the fine rose and red flowers of the tropical Water Lilies throughout summer and autumn, they will begin to take more interest in their garden water flowers. Even the wretched formless duckponds which disfigure so many country seats will begin at last to have a reason to be. The change will be, I hope, the means of leading us to think more of the many noble flowers and fine leaved plants of the waterside, apart from Water Lilies. A great many handsome plants frequent the banks of rivers and lakes, and are never seen so well anywhere else. The rich soil brought down by rivers is a great aid in the growth of waterside plants, and those who have never seen them in this their natural position have little idea of their beauty or even size. Apart from the true water plants, there is also a whole series of noble hardy flowers which should be massed in natural ways by the side of water, like Iris, Meadow-sweet, Loosestrife, Globe Flowers, Knotworts, and many others, some of them, like the rosy Meadow-sweets (Spiraea venusta and S. palmate), flowering with these Lilies. In such ways we shall get gardens of lovely colour and form free from all trace of the pastrycook gardener.
Here is a portrait which M. Marliac sent me himself. In my own garden I have had great success during the past year with these Water Lilies, which flowered till the middle of autumn, noble buds and flowers being gathered towards the end of October. Many may think that the sunny days of the present year may have been sufficient to account for this success, but Lord de Saumarez had tried at Shrubland all the then obtainable Water Lilies of this never to be forgotten raiser, and in the by no means favourable years preceding 1893 all did well and flowered admirably. As Shrubland is a long way north of London, the area over which these Lilies may be grown in the open air includes a great stretch of the most fertile part of England. My own plants are entirely in the open air, and I do not fear loss from cold. The first kind I had. (Marliacea) was not in the least affected by the frosts of several years. Most of the new kinds were planted in the spring of the present year, and in a few months we got very good blooms, and red Water Lilies were visible at long distances a few months after planting.
Should there be limits to cultivating these plants in the open garden in the north, it will be quite easy to keep them in houses in the winter and turn them out in the summer. Another very interesting aspect is what may be done in greenhouses and warm houses in cold or unsuitable places, and many may in that way enjoy their fine forms and lovely colours quite near the eye, though the greatest merit of the plants is the giving us new and beautiful pictures in the open garden. In view of the great interest of the subject, and of the fact that so little was known of the way in which M. Marliac had originated his beautiful Water Lilies, I felt the best way was to go to the fountainhead for information, and lie has kindly sent me the following a. count of his precious work. - W.R.
------ In reply to your request for some account of my operation in hybridising Nymphaeas, I have the pleasure of sending you the following summary of particulars on this subject. Although I am a passionate admirer of all the beauties of the garden, the flora of the waters has always been my favorite study ; and so it came to pass that, greatly encouraged by the wonderful results which attended the hybridisation of a host of other special subjects, I resolved to experiment in a similar manner with the Nymphaeas.
About the year 1879 I commenced the work in earnest by crossing the finest types of hardy and tropical Nymphaeas which I had in cultivation here. These early attempts were at first negative in their results, but soon afterwards I scored an unexpected success in obtaining a hybrid with deep red flowers, the seed parent of which was Nymphaea pygmaea alba, fertilised with pollen from the flowers of N. rubra indica. Unfortunately, and to my great disappointment, this magnificent specimen proved hopelessly barren, and from it I obtained neither seeds nor offsets, so that, after having tried in vain to reproduce it, I gave up the task and turned my attention in another direction.
In order to obtain plants of
a really ornamental character, I considered that it was especially
necessary that I should make it a point not to employ as seed
parents any subject except such as which were very free flowering,
About the same time two species
bearing a high character made their first appearance in gardens,
viz., N. sphaerocarpa, a native of Sweden, and the elegant N.
odorata rubra, found at Cape Cod, in North America. The
In the year 1889 the Universal Exhibition was held at Paris, and my small collection of the above named hybrids timidly took the road to the metropolis, to see if possibly they might attract some notice from amateurs in the midst of the plant wonders there. Their graceful elegance, however, was appreciated, and they came back radiant with the distinction of a first prize. What a change has taken place since then ! And with how much more assurance would that first collection have made the journey to Paris if they had undertaken it in company with the splendid generation which bas since made its appearance !
The success achieved at the Universal Exhibition put fresh life into my ambition to make further advances, and I applied myself assiduously to the work, with the object of effecting a cross which would produce plants with flowers of a very bright red colour much superior to the colour of N. sphaerocarpa and N. odorata rubra, which I had proved to be incapable of supplying the desired improvement. After numerous trials and experiments, I at last succeeded in attaining the object of my desires in a hybrid, the flowers of which are of the same colour as those of the tropical N. rubra, the plant, moreover, possessing the invaluable property of bearing seed - a property all the more precious from the circumstance that the plant does not yield any offsets.
As I had anticipated, this hybrid could not be sent out., as its seedlings could not be relied upon to resemble it ; in fact, it has produced seedlings the flowers of which exhibited a whole scale of intermediate shades of colour, from soft pink to the deepest red. Those varieties, however, which it is impossible to render permanent through the failure of their sterns to yield offsets have proved very useful for hybridising choice varieties of the stoloniferous and proliferous kinds, and it is from hybrids of this kind that I have obtained the series of those remarkable hardy novelties which, during six months of the year, embellish the waters of pleasure grounds with a never failing display of their splendid flowers. Most of these now plants are already catalogued under the names of N. Robinsoni, N. Seignouroti, N. Laydekeri rosea, N. liliacea, N. fulgens, N. Marliacea ignea, N. Marliacea rubra punctata, and N. Marliacea flammea. Others, not less brilliant, will soon be added to the list, and I may mention, in passing, that several of those have been already described in THE GARDEN.
The acquisition of a red flowered hybrid Nymphaea which yields seed has opened up a new prospect by affording the means of effecting crossings with the yellow flowered kinds, the result being the production of quite a legion of Nymphaeas bearing flowers which exhibit singular shades of colouring, such as orange, vermilion, gold colour, &c. Some of these splendid kinds have been already introduced to the public, the first of them which flowered being named after the editor of THE GARDEN, a compliment due to him in return for the great interest which he has taken in the advancement of the culture of hardy Nymphaeas.
The blending of the Nymphaeas of the Castalia tribe (which are found in various northern countries) with the Lotuses of the tropics is now an accomplished fact ; but another important task remains to be carried out, namely, the hybridising of the Castalias with plants of the cyanea. section, which includes a great number of superb blue-flowered Nymphaeas. This is a work which is well calculated to stimulate the enthusiasm of hybridisers.
In conclusion, I have to say that, notwithstanding my very great partiality for the Nymphaeas, I can appreciate the stately beauty of the Nelumbiums, and I have endeavoured, by making repeated sowings to obtain some hardier and more free flowering forms of these plants those of exotic growth. Nelumbium Osiris - one of my seedlings - possesses these two important qualities, and I think it is destined to prove a powerful aid and factor in effecting this desirable improvement.
Such is the record of my labours amongst the Nymphaeas. May my enthusiasm for the flora of the waters spread and induce many others to follow my example, in. endeavouring to extend and enlarge the domain of horticulture. -- B. LATOUR MARLIAC.
* Drawn for THE GARDEN (natural size) by A. F. Hayward, October 10, 1893, from plants grown in open water at Gravetye, Sussex. Lithographed and printed by Guillaume Severeyne.