James Knock, who lives in the United Kingdom, has been a dedicated collector of Strawn waterlily cultivars for many years and is an expert in their identification and cultivation. Most cultivars were obtained directly from Strawn Water Gardens in the years 1994 through 1998. Forty one Strawn hybrids are represented in his collection and nearly 300 images appear in these galleries.

As an added bonus, James takes us through seasonal and age related changes in coloration of many Strawn cultivars. High summer in England, sometimes only two to three weeks long, provides the most dramatic colors of all, often not seen in other climates. None of the images have been color enhanced or color adjusted. His notes on each cultivar make these pages truly definitive.

James Knock's Tribute
to the
Brilliance of Kirk Strawn

Photos & Notes © James Knock, www.fishponds.com

N. 'Celebration'

Writing the notes for the following galleries has brought home to me just how good Kirk Strawn's hardy water lily cultivars really are.* Just what has he managed to create that so many others have failed to do since Latour-Marliac? Put simply, he has produced a whole range of new hybrids, the likes of which we couldn't have even imagined a decade or so ago. Almost without exception, Kirk's plants represent new colours and shapes, many with much more exotic appeal than ever before.

Before Kirk, who would have thought that we could have vivid fuchsia pink and a whole range of salmon, peach and mingled pastel shades, not to mention many more double and semi-double blooms? Some of these even have characteristics more akin to the tropicals, with flowers held high above the foliage. Water gardening has never been such an exciting place.

It has taken enormous dedication over many years for Kirk to produce so many wonderful plants, and many things during this time could be easily overlooked. For example, in order to produce just one hybrid of the quality of Kirk's, he would have had to grow many hundreds if not thousands of seedlings to maturity. Only then could they be properly evaluated before a possible selection was made. It is relatively easy for anyone to grow a few seedlings and then name them, but sadly the chances of them being even vaguely up to Kirk's standards are virtually nil. This is what makes Kirk's plants so special.

Another area in which I consider Kirk to be the master is the cultivars themselves. If you look closely at the plants he selected for naming, you will notice that they are all clearly distinct from varieties that preceded them. Considering that over the years he must have produced a vast number of plants, it stands to reason that there must have been some excellent ones which were simply too similar to what came before to be selected. To Kirk's credit he discarded these. It's not necessarily what you keep that makes a great hybridiser but what you throw away! Many of the plants which Kirk did select are quite simply masterpieces.

Something not often mentioned regarding water lilies, but really deserving closer scrutiny, is the relationship between flower and leaf size. Many of Kirk's creations display flowers as large or even larger than their leaves! Before Kirk this was something we could largely only dream of.

Not only did Kirk produce new colours with exceptional blooms, but his plants are free flowering to the extent that some are so prolific that I still can't believe they are not tropicals. Some are quite extraordinary in that they never stop trying to bloom, even in the depth of winter. I would go so far as to say that these hybrids are almost evergreen. Only a hard frost knocks them back, but not for long. Thanks to Kirk we can now have more flower power per square foot than ever before, in a range of colours and shapes never seen before.

Sadly some of his plants are already in danger of being lost to cultivation. Already we are seeing plants for sale with somewhat dubious labels and, just as worrisome, inferior seedlings are creeping into the mix as well. It's worth noting that all water lily hybrids can only be propagated by division or tuber; seedlings are never the true plant. Everything possible must be done to preserve the pure varieties for future generations.

What more can I say except . . . on behalf of the world's water gardeners, huge thanks to Kirk Strawn for his truly remarkable contributions.

Kirk has also introduced several excellent tropical lilies but, given my climate and growing conditions, I have concentrated on his hardies.


Gallery Index Complete 300K 

< N. 'Highlight'

 For shorter downloads


Gallery Index for
N. 'Barbara Davies' through N.
 'Clyde Ikins'

< N. 'Betsy Sakata'


Gallery Index for
N. 'Colorado' through N.

< N. 'Colorado'


Gallery Index for
N. 'Little Sue' through N.
 'Pink Pumpkin'

< N. 'Pink Peony'


Gallery Index for
N. 'Pink Sparkle' through N.
 'Yuh Ling'

< N. 'Reflected Flame'

Profile - Kirk Strawn
by Duane Eaton

Complete List of Strawn Cultivars

Water Lily Hybridization
by Kirk Strawn, PhD

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