THE FLOWERS BELOVED BY MONET ARE CAPTIVATING A NEW GENERATION OF GARDENERS.
IT’S A STILL MORNING AT THE NAPLES BOTANICAL
GARDEN, AND CLUSTERS OF WATER LILIES APPEAR
TO MULTIPLY IN THE REFLECTION OF A POND.
Aquatics specialist Danny Cox pulls on his chest-high waders, quickly scans for gators, and glides into the water to check on the flowers, which are colorful and exotic-looking with a fragrance reminiscent of the tropics. “Water lilies are the sexy part of water gardening,” he says.
Their beauty is only part of their allure for gardeners like Danny, however. It’s also their sheer strangeness. The plants have adapted all kinds of features to survive in water: spongy pads and waxy petals, spikes to deter predators, and stalks that function almost like snorkels. Then there are the famous giants—the Victoria types—with pads reaching as much as 10 feet across.
That spectacle draws crowds to this garden on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where Danny oversees about 300 water lilies, but he points out that the flowers can also thrive on a much smaller scale, such as a pot on a patio. He has filled his own backyard with containers full of water lilies. Each day before he heads to work, he quietly appreciates their blossoms and the frogs, blue jays, and dragonflies they attract. “Water lilies draw you in,” he says, “and connect you to nature in a deeper way.”
Water lilies may looklike they belong in the tropics, but these members of theNymphaeaceae family actually thrive in many climates. In warm regions (Zones 9–11), tropical varieties like ‘Plum Crazy’ grow year-round. In cold regions (Zones 4–8),consider tropical varieties as annuals or opt for hardy types, such as ‘Arc-en-Ciel.’
Danny Cox manageswater lilies and other aquatic plants across seven waterfeatures at the Naples Botanical Garden(naplesgarden.org).This summer he’ll host an internationalcompetition at the garden for newhybrids.