This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The recent flowering as already noted in the open air in the United States of the famous Victoria regia, by Mr. Sturtevant, of Bordentown, has turned more than usual attention to the subject of Water Lilies in general. A correspondent inquires where she can get the best account of the Water Lilies under cultivation. We cannot, perhaps, do better for her than to give the following exhaustive account by a correspondent of Mr. Robinson's Garden, of London :
"Every one knows and appreciates that queen of native wild flowers, the common white Water Lily ; but my object now is to bring into notice other less common kinds, which, from their diversity of form and color, are equally valuable. Their culture is of the simplest kind, for, if properly planted at first, they seldom give any further trouble. Where it is convenient to drain oil' the water, the best mode of planting the larger kinds is to make a hillock of a compost consisting of good Loam and a small quantity of well decomposed manure and river sand; on the surface of this place some large stones to prevent the soil from being removed by the water. In this hillock place the plant so that the depth from its crown to the surface of the water may not exceed two feet. If there be no means of lowering the water, the best substitute is to put the plants into large baskets and to sink them to the proper depth. If the bottom be of a gravelly nature the plants will not spread much, but if otherwise, they should be kept within bounds, or they will soon grow into a mass which tends to considerably mar the effect, as shown in the form of isolated patches. In the case of young plants and the small-growing kinds enumerated below it is advisable to keep them in small baskets and in shallow water.
There are about eighteen half-hardy Water Lilies in cultivation at the present time. The majority belong to the genus Nymphaea, and the remainder to the genus Nuphar. Of the native kinds, which need no description, there are three varieties, which are very distinct. The minor form is very interesting on account of its small size, the blossoms being but one and one-half inches to two inches across, with the leaves small in proportion. The variety Candida is a form intermediate in size between the two preceding. The rose-colored variety (N. alba var. rosea) is a plant which has excited much interest ever since it first expanded its lovely blossoms, a short time ago in the open air at Kew, being the first time of flowering in this country. It is said to have originated in a solitary lake in Sweden, from whence it was taken to one of the Swedish botanic gardens, which is doubtless the source of the Kew plants. It is destined to become as common as the white one, and, in company with it and other aquatics, it will produce a, charming effect.
The North American species, N. odorata, is a very near ally to N. alba, but the most perceptible distinction between them is the larger blossoms, which measure from six inches to nine inches across, and which are very sweet-scented. The veins on the under sides of the leaves are also much more raised above the surface. The flowers of this kind, too, have a decided tendency to assume a red color, and the full development of this is admirably shown in the rose-colored variety (N. odorata var. rosea, or N. odorata var. minor of some), as the flowers are much smaller than those of the type. It is a source of much pleasure to hear that living plants of this beautiful variety have recently been imported into this country from the North American lakes. The variety maxima differs from the type only in having larger flowers. The variety reniformis has the lobes of the leaf much rounded, so as to assume a kidney shape, but there is no difference in the flower. The type of the sweet-scented Water Lily was introduced into this country in 1786, but it is not so common now as it deserves to be. It requires precisely the same treatment as N. alba, and will be found to be quite as hardy in the Southern counties.
The tuberous rooted Nymphaea (N. tube-rosa) is also a native of North America, and much resembles our native kind, but differs from it principally in having tubers developed on the roots which spontaneously detach themselves from the plant, and so afford a ready means of propagation. The shining-leaved Water Lily (N. nitida) is also a near relative of N. alba, but has very shining leaves, and blossoms not so large and scentless. It inhabits the lakes and still waters of Siberia, and also the River Lena. This kind, and also the preceding, can be obtained from nurseries in which hardy plants are made a specialty. The pigmy Water Lily (N. pygmaea) is a native of China and some parts of Siberia. It is the smallest of all, having leaves not more than two inches across, and very small flowers. It is very rare in cultivation, but I noticed it at Kew in company with other kinds. The most interesting of all the Nymphaeas is, perhaps, the yellow-flowered kind, N. flava. on account of its color, as in no other sort, either tropical or temperate, is it found.
I have not seen the flowers, but I am pleased to hear that living plants have just been imported into this country from North America. The common yellow Water Lily belongs to the genus Nuphar, of which we have one species, N. lutea, which inhabits-many of our lakes and slow-running rivers in abundance, and, therefore, is too well known to need description. It has a very interesting miniature variety called pumila. or minima, which is found wild in some of the Highland lakes of Scotland. It is considerably smaller in all its parts than the type, and also possesses the same vinous perfume. The stranger or three colored Nuphar (N advena) is the North American representative of our yellow Water Lily; it nearly approaches it in general aspect, but it may be at once distinguished by its larger size and the leaves standing erect out of the water if it be shallow. The blossoms are larger and the same in color outside, but the cone of stamens in the centre is of a brighter red. It was introduced in 1772. and is rather common in cultivation now. N. Kalmiana, also a North American kind, much resembles the small variety of N. lutea, and is a very interesting plant to grow in company with it.
There is another kind, the arrow-leaved Nuphar (N. sagittaefolia), but I doubt if the true plant is at present in cultivation in this country".