‘I do sincerely trust
that the benediction
that is always awaiting me
in my garden may by degrees be more deserved and that I may grow in grace and patience and cheerfulness, just like the happy flowers
I so much love.’ Elizabeth von Arnim
Unmissable currently at Durham’s
University Botanic Gardens is the Amazon Water Lily – Victoria amazonica. Housed in one of the
greenhouses in its own specially prepared pool, it grows up to eight feet
across in the wild and can allegedly support the weight of a man.(I haven’t
checked yet with Head Gardener, Mike, if any of his staff have tried to prove
that this is actually so).
Close up of leaves
This water lily was discovered in Brazil
in the nineteenth century and thus was named after Queen Victoria. The ribbed structure of the leaves
was said to have provided the inspiration for Joseph Paxton’s glasshouses at
Chatsworth and the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851.
The undersides of the leaves are riddled with amazing spines to stop
them being munched by passing fish, but it is the fantastic flower which is the
It looks just like a regular water lily but is in proportion to
the size of the gigantic leaves and literally is Amazonian! It is such a treat
to have the opportunity of seeing it and, although the flower will last some
while yet, I urge you to make the effort to view it.
Despite the splendour of this exotic delight, perfect for all would-be Thumbelinas, I have to agree with Schumacher, however, that ‘small is beautiful’ and can hardly wait for the pygmy water lily in my
own miniscule garden pond to flower.