On the Horizon
The start of January brings the start of Longwood’s waterlily display
Even though snow is on the ground and our waterlily display is closed for the season, our gardeners are already sowing seeds inside Longwood’s growing house for this summer’s giant water-platters.
“Few plants have the ability to captivate an audience like the giant water-platter,” says senior gardener Tim Jennings who leads the growing, installation, and care for Longwood’s waterlily display.
“Many visitors don’t realize that the process for growing these awe-inspiring water plants is a long nine-month process, however, the joy they bring to Longwood and our visitors once they are in bloom is invaluable,” says Jennings who first learned how to grow and care for Longwood water-platters during his time as a Professional Gardener student 30 years ago.
Even though the display doesn’t open until late-May or early June (depending on the weather), Jennings and a team of gardeners are already in the process of sowing this year’s water-platter seeds.
“Every January we start by sowing 5 to 10 seeds in a community pot, and plant them about 1.5 times as deep as the diameter of the seed,” says Jennings.
For the waterlily display, Longwood grows three types of water-platters: Victoria cruziana
, Victoria amazonica
and a hybrid between the two called Victoria
x ‘Longwood Hybrid'. A total of seven water-platters are grown every year: three hybrids, two Victoria cruziana
and two Victoria amazonica
“This hybrid water-platter, Victoria
x, is special to our garden, and was first developed by Longwood in 1960,” says Jennings. “It’s a cross pollinated variation of Victoria cruziana and Victoria amazonica
Jennings uses soil that is directly harvested from Longwood’s fields, which is on the clay side of the soil spectrum. “To the soil we add coarse granite grit at a 5:1 ratio of soil to grit and don’t add any additional fertilizer to the soil at this stage,” says Jennings.
The seeds are then placed in tanks of water heated to 80 degrees to await germination.
“By March, we should start to see the first signs of leaf growth which is always an exciting day in the growing house,” says Jennings who notes that their team has to keep a special eye on the growing platters in this stage so they don’t overcrowd each other.
But for now, Jennings says, the key is patience during winter’s waiting game. Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center during the month of May to learn about special tours that give you a behind-the-scenes look at the growing of Longwood’s water-platters. Want to learn more about Longwood’s water-platters?
and read Tim Jennings’s blog post
about Longwood’s waterlily display.