International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society Annual Symposium 2007

Published on November 24, 2007

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Bangkok, the Capital City of Thailand

Surrounded by endless rice fields, Bangkok, Thailand, an enormous Asian capital city, loomed in the distance as our flight approached. The second leg of our International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society’s Annual Symposium was about to commence. An hours’ flight south from Chiang Mai where we began our conference, we were about to move from the relatively slower pace of the Northern Provincial city to the hustle of a city that dwarfs most American cities.

Whisked from the airport by our host, we passed through the city on an elevated highway. The view of the city showed us densely populated residential areas tucked beneath and between high-rise buildings, parks and shopping districts. Throughout our stay we came to discover these neighborhoods never seemed to sleep. There was always action. Repair shops and small vendors were open until late in the evening and there were the ever-present food vendor carts lining the streets.

Our first trek out started off with our buses being escorted through the busy streets by a traffic police car, complete with lights and siren. We were on our way to an open-air market where almost anything you can imagine was available for sale. Beautiful, well-groomed, mature Bonsai were the first thing we encountered. Orchid vendors and tropical plant booths lined the narrow streets that surrounded an even more expansive indoor marketplace. Working our way along the very narrow street, bordered by plant vendors selling all manner of landscape plants, we had to dodge vehicles that seemed to have almost no space on either side of their cars. If nothing else, the Thai peoples’ patience was evident here as it was in every traffic jam we encountered. Drivers and pedestrians alike waited their turn to enter the chaos of movement without a bit of aggravation.

Before we had walked far, we came upon a small vendor selling waterlilies, bare root plants that were floating or stacked in bowls of water. Neatly displayed on tables, these beauties were perfectly healthy specimens of tropicals, in full bloom. Next to the plants were bowls of cut waterlily flowers, some tightly closed, and others dispensing their fragrance from open blossoms. Potted bog plants lined the booth space (it looked a lot like American trade show space), with many more plants stashed in back for filling in when others sold out. The shopkeepers did as any other storeowner would do; they made sure they had tie-in sales items as well. Some stores had informational posters while others had soil and fertilizer available. Unlike the clay loam topsoil often seen in the United States, the soil seemed more like bagged modeling clay. It was extremely dense, packed tightly into a plastic bag. The fertilizer was in granular packets that were handmade, like the 1980’s method of fertilizing employed in our country.

Waterlilies were sold potted in containers that were pre-bagged, ready to go. Since the humidity was high, the bags were open, sitting on the ground for easy selection and carryout. There were no tanks for the plants; everything was lined out on the ground. Interestingly, the Victoria was available right along with the waterlilies. Potted in the same size container, many boasted flowers and leaves reaching twelve inches across.

Circling around the market to the other side, passing street vendors selling food and drinks, we found goldfish and koi sellers galore. Many of the fish were bagged in advance and lined up on the ground or low stands. Some bags were heavily packed with many fish while others were offered as “specimens.” The single fish in bags were very nice, large fancy goldfish and koi. Other fish keepers offered their fish in tanks, to be selected individually and bagged on the spot. There appeared to be larger brokers of fish inside in the stores, and smaller vendors outside selling fish from a more limited offering.

The next day, a highlight of our trip was to visit the Suan Lang Rama IX Public Park for the educational sessions of the IWGS Annual Symposium. This was no ordinary event, however, because our day was to start off with a visit by a Royal Princess. This was an important and formal affair, with strict protocols to be followed. The Princess was at our meeting to present awards for an aquatic plant photo contest that was held in Thailand. Presenting the awards to contestants was Professor Doctor Her Royal Highness Princess Chulaporn Walailuk, daughter of the King of Thailand. The final presentation of the event was made to the Princess by the IWGS president, Tom Tilley. Tom presented a signed print of a Baby Doll Lotus to the princess, which was graciously accepted. The remainder of the day was spent attending educational meetings, browsing the photography contest display, and enjoying the temporary waterlily displays outside. The permanent collection of the First IWGS Certified Collection of Waterlilies in Asia is located on these grounds and was one of the stops on our tour of the park grounds.

Our entourage was treated to an extensive tour of the Bangkok area with a stop at a ceramic and pottery factory to see how vases used in disappearing fountains are made. We made a trek through the countryside to Chonburi, home of the stunning gardens called Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. The group took a quick trolley tour of the immaculately laid out gardens with beautiful streams, ponds and fountains. The nursery that was established to support the gardens was a plant lover’s delight. The Thai meal served in the outdoor garden restaurant was just another example of our hosts’ desire to treat us all to a true Thailand experience.

As a group from all parts of the world, our IWGS members were truly fortunate to have been so warmly welcomed anywhere we visited in Thailand. The group of people who hosted and guided us made the experience a fantastic cultural experience. Thank you to all who made the journey possible!

About IWGS and Keith Folsom

The International Water Lily and Water Gardening Society (IWGS) is pleased to announce that Keith Folsom has been chosen to become the new Executive Director for this non-profit organization. This multi-national organization is dedicated to the promotion of all aspects of water gardens and their associated plants. The IWGS supports and promotes education, research and conservation in the water gardening industry.

Keith has been involved in water gardening since 1980. He and his wife Tish, own Springdale Water Gardens in Greenville, Virginia, a retail-wholesale water gardening company. Keith and Tish are also co-owners of FiberTech Virginia, manufacturers of fiberglass garden ponds in Waynesboro, Virginia. Keith’s wide exposure to all aspects of water gardening made him a suitable choice for this position. His experience ranges from propagation, production, sales, product development, exploration, writing and photography.

IWGS headquarters are located in Greenville VA. The IWGS can be reached for more information at (540) 337-9344, at execdirector@iwgs.org, or on the web at www.iwgs.org.

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