Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hopping across waterlilies

With Texas burdened by a long drought, that last thing we expected to find here in San Angelo was a superb waterlily garden, but several locals said "make sure to see our waterlily pond" and so Pam and I made a beeline for it today. Originally the work of one passionate local enthusiast, Ken Landon, the garden has grown to become the City of San Angelo International Waterlily Collection, a fancy title that the garden does live up to. Though they weren't in flower, it has rare Blue Nile Lotus from Africa plus several other endangered species. It also has the five waterlily species native to Texas. But what captures everyone's eyes when you first land there is this sight, below.

Giant Victoria lilies from the Amazon River cover the central pond (the garden consists of a several ponds all linked by walkways which rise and fall to give you varying views).

These lilies are stunning in themselves, but I was additionally fascinated by them as I had, only recently, been reading about the famous glass 'Crystal Palace' exhibition space in London in the middle of the 19th century. It was designed by a leading gardener of the day, a genius of all trades apparently, and he used the structure of the ribs on the back of the Victoria lily as the basis for his design of the Crystal Palace's steel ribs. It's a perfect piece of engineering, provided by the greatest engineer of all, Mother Nature.

Forgive me for banging on about them, but they are eye-catching from any angle.

One incredible trick in this garden is the blue-coloured water, which really highlights the magic going on just beneath the water's surface. This is the core of a Victoria lily, with the babies and new flowers just coming up. Alas, we didn't get lucky by seeing one of the lily's enormous flowers, which are short-lived, but we are lucky to be here in San Angelo.

Here's what I mean by the blue-tinted water. All around the ponds water is recycled via pipes back into the ponds, and it has a strong blue colour as it pours from each pipe.

Once you manage to drag yourself away from the large show-stoppers, the variety of waterlilies on display is wonderful. The peak season for their flowering was just a week or two ago, but generally September and October are the months when this garden is at its best, so we got lucky this time round.

All colours were in bloom, including these pale lemony yellow pretties.

Mauves aplenty.

And if you get close enough to them, you can admire the anemone-like clusters of stamens.

The gardens around the pond edges were just finishing blooming, and they were alive with Monarch butterflies and blue dragonflies. Both proved elusive to catch for a photo, and then this butterfly obliged by stopping off for a feed of nectar. I felt a bit like one of those fashion photographers calling out to his model: "Darling, can I see a bit more of the reverse side of your wings? Got it, lovely darling, thanks."

"Now how about unfurling those gorgeous wings for us, luv? Perfect!"

For a small town which I had never heard of until about three days ago, San Angelo has provided us with so much to enjoy, and to blog about. It's a lively, interesting town fully of friendly folk. We're about to head off to dinner tonight (Friday night) and so I have a Tummy Time USA (3) to tell you all about, plus we founds lots of interesting local shops, and we still have some other snippets to post online about famous names, good and bad, who died young, Billy the Kid and Buddy Holly.


greggo said...

Jamie, or Himmy as it would be pronounce by our latino cousins in San Angelo. Nice post, I just happened to fall on it while in San Angelo! I blog out of southern Kansas. Let me know the hot spots as I am in the wool capital for my sons wedding. Greggo.

Jamie said...


We hit Blaine's Pub tonight, and it's great if you like country music. And last night we went to Sealy's Diner, which has good food and blues music out the back. Both spots were a heap of fun with a good natured crowd and a lot of atmosphere.

encyclopediabotanica said...

It feels like I am there with you Jamie! The waterlily gardens look stunning. The water is blue as the result of the addition of copper sulphate to control algae but it does make the water a pretty blue colour doesn't it!

Alexa said...

Wow that is quite stunning! I have a tiny mini waterlily in a pot on my porch and I'm eagerly watching the first flower bud develop. I'd love to see those huge ones some day!