Babs Ellinwood
Florida, USA

By Babs Ellinwood

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I was born in St. Petersburg and raised in both St. Petersburg and Hernando, Florida, where we have had a cabin on Lake Tsala Apopka since 1945 and where I live now. I have always been in and around water ... avid fisherwoman, scuba diver, sailor, and water plant grower since childhood.

Our lakefront is landscaped with native Florida plants and, much to the enjoyment of my mother, she could see a waterlily blooming every day. Waterlilies have always been a favorite of mine and then one day I saw a huge yellow lily rising out of the lake ... a Nelumbo lutea ... North American Lotus. It only took one seed to sprout and grow, and I was hooked. As the lotus began to bloom, it was a sight to behold, a sea of yellow with a fragrance as light as the wind. The beauty can take your breath away.

Hernando is known for its large mouth bass fishing and the crystal clear lakes that surround this area. We have one stoplight in town and one of the restaurants still offers 99 cent breakfasts. This is the "Best of the Best" in Florida living. When the fish in our lake seem to have lockjaw, my husband and I sometimes head for the west coast of the state for saltwater fishing.

My position as a Corrections Nurse at the Citrus County Jail is challenging at times, and the water gardening is a way to relax and let the job pressures normalize. Water therapy is a great stress reliever and water gardening is a common hobby among the nurses. We often share plants and have been known to swap buckets of lilies in the parking lot. When spring arrives it is a weekly activity.

Working the night shift allows me to view my ponds in the early morning hours when I come home and that is the perfect way to end my day and wind down from the activity of the jail. I have four pools planted with lotus, waterlilies and native Florida water plants. They are also home to the 44 named goldfish raised from "feeders". When I am not working you will find me out by the ponds, in my kayak looking for plants in Lake Tsala Apopka or painting. I do oils of waterlilies and lotuses.

Lotus growing is my passion. I raise them from seed and tubers. At any time come spring, I have up to 100 lotus seeds sprouting and have sent lotus all over the States and to seven foreign countries. In 2001 I began doing selective hybridizing. It is a great way to develop new varieties, but since it takes several years to see the final results, I plan on being patient. I am using 'Mrs. Perry D. Slocum' as a pod parent....she is my favorite lotus. Well, one of two. I am also in love with N. lutea, our native lotus and a parent of 'Mrs. Perry D. Slocum'.

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