Saturday, 15 June 2013

Waterlily House, month by month

The Waterlily House is one of Kew’s smallest glasshouses, but is easily one of the busiest attractions! Here is housed a giant waterlily, Victoria cruziana, and countless other tropical gems and floral delights. The house was built in 1852 specifically to house the larger and more famous species, Victoria amazonica, using the same iron work detail provided by Irishman Richard Turner who built the nearby Palm House. Unfortunately the V. amazonica was never happy here and is now planted in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, but the Santa Cruz waterlily flourishes and the lipped-rimmed leaf pads add greatly to the display in this small house. Every autumn the house is completely taken apart and removed, with plants, soil, water and even the fish shipped out! The house remains empty during the bleak winter months, and then in spring is restocked and replanted with plants and fish for the summer display. I was luckily enough to help out with the replanting this year and below follows some of the progress and development in the house from reopening in February to the June view yesterday afternoon!
Sign reads, “Where are the waterlilies? On a winter break!” That break is now over as spring is here

The new compost arrives, the first of many large bags

All of the raised beds are filled by hand!

The final wheelbarrow is filled and then the beds are full

The Tree Gang arrive from the Arboretum to help raise the Nepenthe baskets above the pond

With all of the waterlily planters in place, it is time to fill the pond!

The first planting is the structural foliage specimens such as Calathea and Alocasia

With the waterlilies planted the house opens to the public! The Spanish galleon masthead was a temporary feature for the Easter chocolate festival

Three weeks later the pond is almost filling up!

A distinguished visitor makes a graceful exit

Waterlily stems have these hollow sections contained within them, providing the buoyancy required for the foliage and flowers to rest on the water's surface

A netting of Passiflora provides the necessary shading to satisfy much of the floral bedding display, which prefer dappled-light conditions and can scorch in full sun

The incredible glory of Passiflora alata!

Many smaller hybrids also inhabit the pond; this is Nymphaea carpentaria x violaceae, a cross created at Kew by my old boss Carlos Magdalena

Waterlily foliage is armoured with fierce (painful) spines which deter herbivores and help support the leaf ribs!

The Victoria flowers are, inevitably, both large and glorious!

Another of Carlos' Nymphaea hybrids, and as yet unnamed

Close up in the pond, with more detail of the leaf rim and protective spines!

June view of this wonderful tropical house


Anonymous said...

Great photos and text! So many plants Ive never seen nor knew about and many more I shall never know I guess. You have a very nice blog here!
Gods peace

Anonymous said...

Sublime.......truly .......sublime....wonderful beautiful...exotic....

Bertie Bainbridge said...

Greetings anonymous! Good day to you Ann-sofie.

Wife, Mother, Gardener said...

So fun to see the spines of the leaves! An epidermis adaptation? Very effective. Thanks for the description of the process... lots of effort for sure!

The Green Lady said...

Really interesting to see how much hard work goes into an amazing display like this. I look forward to when you're creating your own hybrids Bertie! x

Share my Garden said...

Wonderful photos, as usual, Bertie. Shades of Thumbalina!