WA­TER COL­ORS

THE FLOW­ERS BELOVED BY MONET ARE CAP­TI­VAT­ING A NEW GEN­ER­A­TION OF GAR­DEN­ERS.

Better Homes & Gardens - - Food -

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.

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