The 2018 IWGS Symposium was held in San Angelo, Texas, from Sept. 16 to 18. The City of San Angelo could not have been more excited and welcoming to see the IWGS come back to their fair city.
Board members and those arriving early were treated to a mini tour of local gardens. Featured on this tour was an incredible palm collection and a home surrounded by a large moat filled with waterlilies. Another home on the tour featured a water garden that was incorporated into a rainwater collection system.
Everyone gathered in the lobby Thursday evening, and a short bus ride took us to the opening reception at the San Angelo Visitor Center. The fellowship and joy from all the members seeing each other again was palpable. People from all walks of life and all parts of the world, from professional to hobbyist, mingled with the citizens of San Angelo. Following appetizers and live music, the group returned to the hotel. Each night the hospitality room was open for more fellowship.
We gathered Friday morning at the San Angelo Convention Center for presentations. The first presentation was given by Anthony Archer-Wills, who completely astounded the group with his amazing water garden installations. Kelly Billings spoke about planting streams, presenting new ways to think about them. Cuiwei Yu shared results from the breeding program for both Nymphaea and Nelumbo at Zhejiang Humanities Co. Ltd. Sijuan Li amazed us with his accomplishments in hybridizing so many cultivars on his rooftop garden. We heard from the Invasive Species Panel before Heinjo Lahring spoke on the unique techniques he has developed on seed production of wetland plants in the short season in the bitter-cold zone 2.
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for — visiting the International Waterlily Collection curated by Kenneth Landon. The weather was a little dicey at first, with thunderstorms and rain threatening, but a rainbow appeared, and all was well. Dinner was served from an authentic chuck wagon. There was lots of photography while the day bloomers were closing and the night bloomers were opening. The evening was topped off by an exclusive fireworks show created by none other than Landon himself.
Saturday morning found everyone up and ready to return to the collection for more fellowship and photography. After visiting the collection, the members were treated to lunch in downtown San Angelo and time to experience a little bit of Texas culture.
The afternoon consisted of a presentation by Eamonn Hughes, who, like Anthony Archer-Wills, builds water gardens on a grand scale. It was interesting to see the different flavors of pond design, all of which were drool-worthy. The day’s presentations finished with Kenneth Landon sharing his techniques for growing the wonderful waterlilies at the International Waterlily Collection.
Saturday was topped off with the Hall of Fame banquet held at the Museum of Fine Arts. There were two inductees into the Symposium this year, both who have contributed to the IWGS and water gardening in very different ways.
“Ask Tish” is a phrase familiar to anyone on the IWGS Board. Tish has served the IWGS in many different capacities over the years, from president to treasurer. In addition, Tish and her husband hosted the 2012 Symposium in Virginia. Through her efforts as a water garden business owner and volunteer extraordinaire, she has furthered the water garden hobby.
In an entirely different way, our second honoree, Dr. Nopchai Chansilpa, has also furthered the water garden hobby through his amazing hybridizing efforts. Among others is his stunning hybrid Wanvisa, which won hybrid of the year in 2010. Wanvisa is simply breathtaking to the point of inspiring someone to build a water garden just to have this lily. Dr. Chansilpa has been exceedingly generous in his knowledge and techniques on hybridization.
The next morning, the membership was granted exclusive entrance into the ponds to photograph the lilies up close and personal. Quite a few members took advantage of this, donning various interesting pond attire.
In the end, it was a great symposium. The weather cooperated by raining to cool things down. The rain graciously held off when we needed to be outside. The city of San Angelo donated time and treasure, from stuffing our tote bags to donating a group picture taken at the gardens.
Speaking for myself more than anything, I enjoy the fellowship experienced at an International Water Garden Society symposium. No one is a stranger. Everyone is welcome. If you are new to the IWGS, you will be drawn into our warm embrace. Everyone attends in a spirit of friendliness and willingness to share our love for all things aquatic.
Anita Nolan Nelson, horticulturist, has always loved plants. As a child, she was fascinated by all the colors, shapes and forms of plants and still is to this day. She is co-founder of Nelson Water Gardens & Nursery, a specialty garden center in Katy, Texas, with her husband Rolf.