Lotus mania is growing at a dazzling pace. Until recently,
lotuses were often an afterthought by water gardeners and botanic
gardens. Today they are a focal point in many aquatic gardens
around the globe. How did this happen?
Lets begin with a brief review . . .
Countless generations of Eastern water gardeners have quietly
enjoyed Nelumbo nucifera varieties. Over centuries they
amassed hundreds of cultivars in varied colors from red through
pink to white, in stem length from ten inch (25 centimeter) miniatures
to seven foot (2.1 meter) giants, and in purpose from ornamental
to nutritional to spiritual.
Meanwhile, North American natives enjoyed handsome stands
of Nelumbo lutea that provided visual pleasure as well
as wholesome food for people and wildlife. Pre-World War II American
water gardeners chose from a half dozen or so available lotus
varieties. Then Perry
D. Slocum began introducing eye-catching new hybrids and
authoring classic lotus texts. Still, few gardeners in the West
knew much about uncounted lotus choices flourishing in the East.
Twenty-five years ago telephone and fax messaging served to
link private and commercial water gardeners together. Local and
international water garden societies formed. Authors began writing
internationally marketed water garden books touting lotuses.
Importantly, the internet soon made easy the global sharing of
water garden information. Lotus interest expanded significantly
as a result.
With trans-Pacific trade booming in recent decades, Chinese
lotus treasures found their way westward. At a 1990s Philadelphia
Flower Show, I was astonished to find dozens of miniature tea
cup lotus choices offered at modest prices. Although half
of them never grew (none in a tea cup), I was thrilled with my
new beauties that did bloom.
Australian Grant Mitchell became fascinated with lotus and
has been visiting Oriental lotus sites to learn all about them.
For 25 years his kind hosts have revealed their specialized knowledge
to him. He shares his understanding through lectures, (including
for the China Lotus Association Symposium), tours and articles.
During this same period, Nola
and Michael Fenech became enthralled with lotuses. They enlisted
Grant to introduce them to Chinese lotus experts and sites.
Auburn Lotus Project in Alabama, USA, with Dr. Ken Tilt,
Warner Orozco-Obando, C. J. McGrath, and Bernice Fischman, demonstrates
keen academic interest in lotuses for horticultural and agricultural
value. In Thailand, Dr.
Slearmlarp Wasuwat is keynoting The 1st International Conference
on Lotus, Waterlily 2010 at Kasetsart University October 20-24.
It is being held concurrently with The 8th Conference on Research
and Development of Lotus, Waterlily as the Economic Plants of
Thailand 2010. Pertinent research and conferences give promise
of new developments for lotuses.
Journal publisher Kit Knotts regularly sparks the spreading
of lotuses with fascinating articles on partner WGI and Victoria-Adventure
sites. A favorite is her extensive compilation of over 800
lotus names with detailed information for each, many with
photos. Under auspices of the International Waterlily and Water
Garden Society, Kelly Billing and Paula Biles authored The
Lotus: Know It and Grow It, giving easy-to-follow information
promised by its title.
Joe Tomocik reports, This summer as part of its traditionally
fabulous spine-tingling display, Denver Botanic Gardens will
grow and evaluate six new tea cup lotuses. The Colorado
Water Gardening Society at its April Get Wet event sold
miniature lotuses and will monitor their performance. DBG
and CWGS hope for a higher blooming rate than they experienced
during their 1997 trials.
Aquatic nurseries and botanic gardens, growing and displaying
ever more varieties and greater quantities than ever before,
contribute to the greater popularity of lotuses.
In sum, global communications greatly facilitate the beneficial
blending of Eastern and Western Nelumbo culture. This
combination in turn stimulates academic and commercial opportunities.
The resulting East-West fusion sparks todays lotus mania
in public and private water gardens around the world.