March 18, 1899
Most of the Nymphaeas called "outdoor," although nearly all equally hardy, frequently differ among themselves in their early or late blooming, in their standing up above the water or floating on it, in their flowers being many or few, or in their general structure and growth being compact or wide-spreading. Some of them form strong clumps which constantly increase in strength, but do not spread about, whilst others are of a roaming nature, their stolons and interlacing rhizomes wandering over a large space, and quickly spreading across the roots of other varieties. In natural lakes and ponds it is impossible to prevent this confusion; but this irregular growth should not be permitted in artificial basins and aquaria, where each plant in the collection should remain distinct and thrive independently; besides, it would not only produce inextricable confusion amongst the plants, but the weaker ones would be smothered by the stronger. In order to obviate this difficulty, it is indispensable that the Water Lilies should be planted separately and at proper distances, or else in pots or in stonework basins, of which the sides and bottom have been carefully cemented. It is very important that the basins should be divided into several compartments by partitions, which should not be higher than three-fourths of the depth of the water, in such a way that they only prevent the roots and rhizomes from meeting, without preventing the leaves from intermingling on the surface. A depth of 2 feet is enough for the tanks. A bed of earth 6 inches deep on the bottom of lie basins will be sufficient for the culture of Water Lilies. It ought to be as free as possible from gravel and stones. The best kind of earth is heavyish loam from the garden or meadow, but earth composed of leaf-mould and alluvial soil is also very suitable. One can also make a mixture of them, but it is better not to put with them any fresh manure which is still undergoing fermentation. As regards the choice of water, that which comes from a stream or river is to be preferred, though that from wells will do. When the water is taken from running springs it ought in summer to be turned off, so as to keep the temperature of the water the same as that of the air, for it is essential to remember that Nymphaeas thrive best in stagnant water, or at least in a very gentle current.
In stocking a tank with Water Lilies the object should be to obtain by a harmonious combination and sequence of shades and colours a generally good effect, and for that purpose plants with high stalks should be avoided, as that would destroy the general view. It is necessary also to suppress confervae and certain under-water plants which are clogging, and clinging, such as Chara, Vallisneria, Elodea, and Potamogeton, which live at the expense of the Water Lilies without adding anything to the picture.
The PROPAGATION of hybrid Water Lilies is effected in the case of the greater number of varieties by the pulling to pieces of their creeping stems and by the detachment of their tubers. Some individual plants, such as N. Laydekeri rosea, do not give offshoots, but this is a rare exception. Others bear seed, but the resulting plants have always a tendency to degenerate The planting can be carried on all through the spring and summer, and presents no difficulty, as it only consists in fixing them in the earth in April or May. If you wish to obtain new varieties you must have recourse to seed and to hybridisation. The method of sowing is quite simple. It is only necessary to place the seeds in shallow vessels in the spring and carefully keep them full of water. The work of hybridisation is more complicated, as it is necessary to entirely cut away, at the very first moment of expansion, all the stamens of those flowers which you wish to artificially fertilise, and on the second day to dust their stigmas with a brush covered with pollen from those kinds chosen for the crossing of them. It is worthy of remark that success in hybridisation depends principally on the care of the operator in only employing subjects of a vigorous growth, well chosen, and fitted to produce types that will be very free flowering .
..........Water Lilies are blessed with a surprising vitality, which allows them to live for quite a long time out of the water, and, in consequence, to survive very long voyages without being any the worse. For example, in 1889 1 sent to the Universal Exhibition at Paris a collection of my hybrids in a case, which was lost on the railway, and which could not be found for over a month. I was then obliged to replace this first instalment. Some time afterwards I received a memorandum informing me that the package had been found, and asking me what should be done with it. Feeling certain that the plants would be dead, I ordered them to be sent back by slow train, but on their arrival I was astonished to see them in good order, pushing shoots and very little the worse for being so long boxed up. I have thrown waste plants on to the earth surrounding the ponds, and have found their roots still quite sound after having laid six months on the open ground.
I should not bring this dissertation on Water Lilies to an end without bestowing a few words on the splendid section of the Cyanea, or blue Water Lilies. It is greatly to be regretted that hitherto all attempts to cross them with their hardy congeners of the northern hemisphere have so far failed. It would be a great triumph to add to the already sumptuous collection some hardy hybrids of a sky-blue colour with a delightful perfume. They are very variable, as from the seed of N. zanzibarensis one can obtain the most beautiful colourings of deep blue, tender blue, intense violet, clear violet, violet-red, pink, etc., that it is possible to imagine.
But alas! These charming varieties, which have also the advantage of being day-flowering, will only thrive with a considerable amount of heat. At Temple-sur-Lot, which has a great number of running springs, Water Lilies are grown all the year round in the open air thus: From the end of October to April 15 I pass through their basins a constant current of water from the running springs to preserve them from the cold, and as soon as warmth comes I turn off the springs, so that the temperature of the water in the basins becomes the same as that of the air. By these simple means it is possible to enjoy for five months the flowering of these grand plants.
The number of hybrid Water Lilies which I have raised at Temple-sur-Lot amounts to thirty-four quite distinct varieties. The following are the names of those which are already in commerce; they are twenty-six in number. The seven others are still unnamed and have not yet been sent out, but before long they also will put in an appearance.
NYMPHAEA ANDREANA. Flowers brick-red, shaded with yellow ochre; cup shaped on a straight stem, rising 5 inches to 6 inches from the water; stamens rich orange; leaves spotted with chestnut colour on the stalk and streaked with red-brown on the back.
N. AURORA. Groundwork of clear yellow, shaded with faint red the first day of flowering, with orange-red the second, and with intense red the third; stamens orange-red; leaves dark olive, streaked with red-brown on the back.
N. CAROLINIANA NIVEA. Flowers pure white, symmetrical, very large and double, with an exquisite scent; stamens rich yellow.
N. C. PERFECTA. Flowers salmon-red, very double; petals obtuse and perfectly regular; stamens rich yellow.
N. ELLISIANA. Flowers bright currant-red. The fiery orange colour of the stamens has a very fine effect.
N. FULVA. Flowers a clear yellow shaded with red, which becomes brighter every day; petals incurved; stamens orange-red.
N. GLORIOSA. A floating scented flower 7in in diameter, very double, and of perfect form; currant-red, washed with rose-white at the tips of the lower petals; stamens rich red. This is the only Water Lily which has regularly five sepals.
N. LAYDEKERI FULGENS. Flowers rich amaranth; stamens fire-red.
N. L. LILACEA. Medium-sized, rising 4 inches to 5 inches from the water; lilac, tipped with carmine; stamens orange-red.
N. L. PURPURATA. Flowers carmine pink, crimson towards the centre; stamens orange-red.
N. L. ROSEA. Flowers medium-sized, passing successively from a tender pink colour to carmine-pink, and then to rich carmine; stamens orange-red.
N. LUCIDA. Flowers very large, opening star-shaped, brilliant vermilion-pink, darker in the centre; petals Pink-white at the tips; stamens orange; leaves large, with large deep chestnut-coloured marblings on the upper surface, and streaked with red-brown on the back.
N. MARLIACEA ALBIDA. Very vigorous; flowers enormous, 8 inches in diameter, milk-white, the outside petals flaked with pink at the base; stamens sulphur-yellow.
N. M. CARNEA. Flowers of great size; colour flesh-pink, fragrant; stamens sulphur-yellow.
N. M. CHROMATELLA. Flowers canary-yellow, large; stamens sulphur-yellow; leaves marbled with brown on the top and streaked with rich brown underneath.
N. M. FLAMMEA. Large wine-red flowers shaded and flaked with white at the tips of the petals; stamens rich red; leaves marbled with chestnut-brown on the surface, as in Chromatella.
N. M. IGNEA. Flowers large, of a fine uniform carmine-red colour; stamens fiery orange.
N. M. ROSEA. Very like M.carnea in appearance and size, but of a brighter pink. The inside surface of the sepals is tinted with pink stamens sulphur-yellow, fragrant.
N. M. RUBRA PUNCTATA. Flowers magenta tipped with carmine; stamens orange red.
N. ODORATA EXQUISITA. Medium sized standing 4 inches to 5 inches out of the water with deep pink and sweetly scented; stamens rich yellow; upper surface of the leaves dull green under surface red.
N. O. ROSACEA. Flowers of a soft pink with sweet perfume; stamens golden yellow.
N. O. SULPHUREA. Flowers sulphur-yellow radiating from a stiff stalk raised 3 to 6 inches above the water; stamens golden yellow leaves spotted with chestnut on the upper surfaces and streaked with rich brown underneath.
N. PYGMEA HELVOLA. Flowers very bright canary-yellow of small size; stamens golden yellow; leaves spotted with brown on the surface and speckled with chestnut colour underneath.
N. ROBINSONI. Flowers finely coloured deep red-vermilion, shaded with ochre towards the centre; stamens rich orange; leaves green with chestnut-brown, and streaked deep red on the back.
N. SANGUINEA. Bearing sometimes carmine-amaranth flowers, and at other times carmine; stamens orange-red.
N. SEIGNOURETI. Flowers Medium sized from 5 inches to 6 inches from the water surface with pink and carmine on a ground of pale yellow; leaves marbled with brown on the surface and streaked with red-brown underneath.
Water Gardening's History