Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Longwood Waterlilies

It’s been awhile since my last blog entry – partly because we haven’t been getting out much lately and partly because I’ve been busy – but hopefully I’ll be getting back to posting on a more regular schedule.  For my first post since November I’d like to go back to a series of photos I took last September on a visit to the famous Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  We’ve been to Longwood on many occasions, but this visit was the first time I focused on the spectacular waterlily display.

Tucked into a protected courtyard, this outdoor display features a wide variety of aquatic plants from all over the world. The pools are filled with more than 100 types of day and night-blooming tropical waterlilies, hardy water lilies, lotuses, giant water-platters and other aquatic and bog plants. The display was originally constructed in 1957 with 13 curving pools. It was subsequently redesigned into 5 larger pools to accommodate a greater variety of plants and reopened in 1989.

The water in the 30"-deep pools is mixed with an organic black dye to slow algae growth and to accentuate the plants, but this does not harm the fish or plants. The black dye also acts as wonderful background for photographers, reflecting the color of the waterlilies while obscuring any underwater roots or debris. The small fish in the pools are mosquito fish which feed upon mosquito and other insect larvae in shallow pools.

The giant hybrid water-platter in the center pool was first successfully hybridized at Longwood Gardens. The two South American parent species of this plant grow in the smaller side pools. Gardeners raise the enormous hybrid water-platter from seed started in late February each year. By summer, plants can produce spiny, 6-foot-diameter leaves in a matter of weeks. Each fully grown leaf can reliably support 80 to 100 pounds if the weight is evenly distributed.

The outdoor waterlily display is open from June 1 through mid-October. Peak bloom occurs mid-July through the end of September. 

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