Charles Winch
Text & photos provided by Noelene Pullen

Click images to enlarge

My father, Charlie Winch, has been interested in waterlilies for more than seventy three years. In 1928, when he was ten years old, he acquired his first waterlily, 'Albida' (a hardy). Charlie slowly added to his collection, whilst working on his parents' small poultry farm in Sydney, Australia. He spent many hours building cement and stone ponds in the family backyard. By 1939 he had become interested in tropicals as well and grew 'Blue Capensis', stellata and 'Mrs. Ward' (also known as 'Siebert').

During World War II, when he served in the Australian Army, his parents (also keen gardeners) looked after his goldfish and waterlilies. On his discharge from the army, he decided to become a full-time aquatic nurseryman, breeding goldfish and growing various cold water aquatic plants, especially waterlilies.

By 1953 he had become very interested in tropicals and, following his wife Beryl's suggestion, became one of the first Australians to import day-flowering varieties from the United States. The twelve he purchased from Trickers were 'General Pershing', 'Pink Pearl', 'Independence', 'Persian Lilac', 'Peach Blow', 'Golden West', 'Talisman', 'St. Louis', 'Mrs. George Pring', 'Isabelle Pring', 'August Koch', and 'Director George T Moore'. 

 'Peach Blow'

'Director George T Moore'

 'Pink Pearl'

Charles Winch used these and other imported tropical lilies in his early hybridizing. (Knotts photos)

Charlie began hybridizing shortly afterwards crossing 'Blue Capensis' with the imported ones. In 1954 'Noelene', a lavender pink, was his first recognized breakthrough using 'Golden West' and 'Blue Capensis' as parents. After a few years, Charlie came to realise that using a species like 'Blue Capensis'meant that the blue colour dominated and therefore was not a good seed parent. He decided to only cross the imported tropicals and their progeny. Unfortunately, there wasn't much time for his hobby whilst trying to earn a living raising and selling goldfish and water plants as well as his two daughters, Noelene and Margaret. 

Detailed article about
Charlie's fish
However, Dad's interest in improving species has also been evident in goldfish breeding, particularly the Comet variety, as he was keen to increase his turnover by selling goldfish at a younger age and size. When Charlie first bred fish in the early 1930s it took from one to three years for goldfish to change colour from brown to gold. By the 1950s all his young fish turned red from six weeks to twelve months due to twenty years of selective breeding from fish that turned gold more quickly. As years went by, the fish produced were closer to red than gold. Charlie gained a reputation in Australia for breeding the deepest coloured Comets.
In the 1960s Evan Williams, from northern New South Wales, became interested in waterlilies. Edie Metelik (a long time friend) of Austral Watergardens in outer Sydney, referred Evan to my father for specialist information. Charlie, living in Sydney, then became involved with the quarantine of Evan's imported new tropicals from the United.States. Evan then began exporting some of Charlie's hybrids to America. During the 1970s Dad acquired white 'Ted Uber' which he used as a seed parent to produce new hybrids such as 'White Delight', 'White Fleck', 'Charles Winch', and 'Mark Pullen'. Other new imports he obtained and used in hybridizing included 'Yellow Dazzler', 'Afterglow', and 'Blue Triumph'. 




'White Delight'

'Mark Pullen'

'Charles Winch'

1. Cover parent buds with
floating mesh or mosquito
net before they are due to
open to keep out the bees

In 1978 Charlie retired from full-time work and decided to devote the rest of his years to his hobby of hybridizing day-flowering tropical waterlilies. By this time he was building his ponds from plastic sheeting which was later replaced by butyl rubber. This meant that quicker results could be achieved as the ponds didn't need to be cured like those made from cement. Due to suburban sprawl and Dad's need for a large backyard, the family helped him move a few times over the years, the last being in 1989 to a 2.25 acre property on the outskirts of Sydney. This was a major undertaking and took three months! Photographic History of the Winch Nurseries

Charlie's hybridization goals have been to improve the variety of colours in both flowers and leaves and to increase the number of petals per flower. When he began hybridizing in the 1950s, most tropicals generally had 18 to 21 petals, there were no deep red/pinks, and 'Director George Moore' was the only deep purple available. Through Evan Williams, Charlie made contact with Jack Wood of California and then acquired white 'Jan Wood', which had two-toned brightly coloured leaves and a larger number of petals than most varieties of this period. This proved to be an excellent seed parent and he used it and its progeny with good results.  

Further crossings over the seasons, using his own hybrids, have resulted in Charlie producing many varieties with richer coloured two-toned leaves (red-brown/green in blotches). In some of his hybrids, the colours underneath the leaves no longer indicate the flower colour. Dad has also developed flowers with stronger colours especially in red/pinks and purples, and flowers with two colour combinations such as pink/white, blue/white, purple/white, pink/yellow, etc.. His hybrids encompass a large variety of flower shapes such as cuplike, stellate, flat, round, wide and narrow petals. One of his major achievements has been to increase the number of petals per flower, with some recent hybrids having up to fifty petals depending on the size of the blooms. This is considerably more than the average twenty petals in the 1950s.

My father has achieved over six hundred different hybrids and named two hundred of them. Selecting names has been quite a challenge. Family members such as such as his parents, wife, daughters, grandchildren and other relatives were obvious choices. Close friends who are also waterlily enthusiasts have been recognised. Australian scenery and terms (such as 'Billabong' and 'True Blue'), music, food, flowers, history and colours have all provided inspiration. 

2. Place a stocking net bag
over the impregnated
flower and attach
a polystyrene float to it

3.Choose seed planting
containers that are about
3 inches (7.5 cm) deep

4. Tropical waterlily seedlings
from one successful
crossing are almost
ready for replanting 

Charlie is currently trying to increase the stocks of his best hybrids before releasing them. It was difficult for me to choose which photographs of his hybrids to include in this article but I decided to choose some of his better known varieties. 

'June Alison'


'Sally Smith Thomas'

'Noelene' (1954) has 20 lavender pink petals, and bright green and maroon mottled leaves with yellow-green and maroon mottles underneath, similar to its parent 'Golden West'.
· 'June Alison' (1980) has up to 40 pink and white petals, pink stamens, and pink flecked green leaves and sepals.
· 'Senorita' (1992) has up to 43 raspberry red pointed petals and green leaves that are pink underneath.

· 'Marguerite' (1982) has up to 37 afterglow pink petals, lightly pink flecked sepals and leaves similar to its parent 'Golden West'.
· 'Sally Smith Thomas' (1984) has up to 26 salmon pink afterglow wide petals and vivid green leaves.
· 'Verena' (1997) has up to 47 petals afterglow yellow pointed petals, pink tipped stamens, and yellow-green sepals and leaves flecked with maroon.

· 'White Delight' (1974) has up to twenty six pointed creamy white petals, yellow stamens and light blue purple flecked sepals and leaves.
· 'Charles Winch' (1974) has up to thirty six beautifully rolled inner petals, yellow stamens and green foliage.

· 'Ambrosia' (1995) is cup-shaped, with up to thirty three petals ranging from greenish-yellow in the centre to blue/purple on the outer petals. The stamens are cream and the leaves are mottled dark red/green.

· 'Mark Pullen' (1987) has up to thirty six wide violet blue petals, green leaves with purplish red and small red freckles underneath.
· 'Billabong' (1987) has up to forty round tipped blue petals, heavy stamens and red/brown and green blotched leaves.
· 'True Blue' (1992) has up to thirty five purplish blue pointed petals, green sepals and leaves. 



'True Blue'



Charlie is a founding Life Member of the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society. He has been visited in Sydney by several American waterlily enthusiasts including Walter Pagels (a regular visitor), Perry and Maggie Belle Slocum, Paul Stetson of Paradise Watergardens, Anne Emmet, Verena Liechti of Jim's Watergardens and Ray and Barbara Davies from England. In 1985 Charlie toured the United.States visiting Walter Pagels, Jack Wood, Bill Uber of Van Ness Watergardens, Charles and Sally Thomas of Lilypons, and Rolf and Anita Nelson. While in Washington, my father was delighted to see his 'White Delight' flowering in the National Aboretum. Two years later he was invited to present a paper on his hybridizing at the IWGS Symposium in Denver where he enjoyed the hospitality of Mary and John Mirgon.

Charlie thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many fellow waterlily enthusiasts during his two trips to the United States but no longer feels confident to travel overseas. He plans to keep hybridizing day-flowering tropical waterlilies as long as his health permits as this gives him much pleasure. In fact, over the spring, summer and autumn months he is very passionate about this hobby of a lifetime! My sister and I and our families are very proud of his achievements.

Charles Winch passed away 19 November 2006. 

 Charles Winch Galleries

Hybridizing of Tropical Waterlilies by Charles A. Winch
Paper presented during the Third International Waterlily Symposium held at Denver in August 1987

Charles Winch Honored

The Winch Nurseries - A Photographic History
The Winch Fish

 The Charles Winch Collection
Displayed at New Orleans Botanical Garden 2006
Introduction by Noelene Pullen & Margaret Edwards

Collection Galleries Main | Visit to the Collection
Creation of the Collection in
WGI ONLINE Journal 1.2

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