IWGS 2019 Symposium Recap

by Betsy Kremers, Freshwater Flora and Fauna

Later Marliac

Rob Sheldon’s Latour Marliac was one of three locations we visited during the symposium. The hybrids of Bory Latour-Marliac were the inspiration for Claude Monet’s impressionist paintings in the late 1800s.

The first time I visited Berkeley, California, I was struck by how “into it” people were. It didn’t matter what you were into — as long as you were really into it. There were no half-hearted protests or mildly spiritual persons; everyone was sincerely all about their “thing.”

I was reminded of this as a newbie at the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society (IWGS) 2019 Symposium, which was held in Le Temple-sur-Lot, France from Aug. 21 — 23.

Pre-Symposium Excursions

When I arrived in Paris and started to meet other attendees, I encountered so many smiling faces with interesting stories to share. The common interests, in this case, included waterlilies, lotus, bog plants and the cultivation and hybridization of these beauties. It was like an orchestra warming up, building to something you just knew was going to be great.

Knowing only a few of my fellow attendees, I joined the group on the first day at Musée de l’Orangerie to see the famous Monet waterlily panels, “Les Nymphéas.” To see Monet’s paintings — the actual canvases — was a phenomenal experience that I was completely unprepared for.

Waterlily

Florian Henaux presented on his award-winning waterlily hybridizing efforts. His first HXT crosses were nearly 10 years ago.

To be in the presence of his paintings with his blood and sweat on them — I couldn’t believe my good fortune. In particular, the painting with the iconic curved bridge with the waterlilies is what probably comes to mind for people all over the world when you say the word “waterlily.”

This is when it began to dawn on me that it’s not just about waterlilies and lotus. It’s a whole package of marvels, and the IWGS Symposium was the chance of a lifetime to see parts of our beautiful world that I never considered seeing. I began to feel so lucky, wondering whom should I thank for putting this all together.

Conference Program

The next day, we boarded a high-speed train bound for Le Temple-Sur-Lot. As the beautiful French countryside whipped past, it looked just as beautiful as I had hoped. When we arrived, we settled in for the main symposium. Being housed directly across the street from Latour-Marliac, the nursery where Monet purchased his famous waterlilies, we had access to the promised land. This is when the waterlily aficionados began to tremble, their collective hearts skipping a beat.

bridge at monet's garden

The view is magical from the bridge at Monet’s Garden.

I like waterlilies, but truth be told, I had never really considered them whatsoever until I met David Curtright a few years ago. So, it was with great joy that I watched David and his cohorts wander around one of the nurseries that put waterlilies on the map. With faces reminiscent of children on an Easter egg hunt, they pointed excitedly, photographed profusely, and of course, drank profoundly.

I’m compelled to mention a few of the varieties David was excited to see: N. Marliacea ‘Rubra Punctata,’ N. Laydekeri Lilacea, and N. ‘Le Gloire De Temple-Sur-Lot,’ to name but a few. The reverence and respect shown by all the attendees spoke to the caliber of participants and of the IWGS as a truly first-class organization.

The following day, we were invited to a cocktail party at the home of Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, the original owner of the Latour-Marliac nursery and the man who helped put this whole waterlily “thing” into motion. It was a charming time capsule from the 1800s, serving as a brilliant background for the grand party in the backyard. They allowed us full access to the entire property while pouring delicious French champagne and providing delectable hors d’oeuvres.

lotus leaves

Yann Mumber stands among the lotus in one of the many gardens at Les Jardins d’eau

Other highlights included a guided tour of Les Jardins d’Eau in Carsac-Aillac by the owner Steven Bernard, a tour of the Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux and an amazing gala dinner at the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux.

The speaker program was quite impressive and included Caroline Holmes, Rob Sheldon (who offered a guided tour of Latour-Marliac), Nicolas Obert, Rich Sacher, Yuchu Chen, Florian Henaux, Benoit Dubois, Lukas De Reze, Shiryu Kirie, Kelly Billing, Daike Tian, Yann Mumber, Lie Xie, Gianluca Bonomo, Cuiwei Yu Wang Xinyang, Zijun Li, Thierry Huau, James Bennett and Nopchai Chansilpa.

Attitude is Everything

Never being much of a joiner of groups, the “we are all in this together” spirit warmed my heart. I admired the way the whole group got along, with little kindnesses bestowed upon one another here and there.

Deb Spencer, Kelly Billing, Susan Davis, Suzanne Boom and Jacklyn Rodman.

Deb Spencer, Kelly Billing, Susan Davis, Suzanne Boom and Jacklyn Rodman.

The takeaway for me is this: It’s always more meaningful to travel with a purpose.. Attitude is everything, and you only get out of it what you put into it.

The IWGS Symposium was about so much more than just waterlilies and lotus. It was wonderful fun with an excellent group of people. Maybe all of them do happen to share a common interest, but this trip was uncommonly interesting. I can’t wait to see everyone again!

Betsy Kremers of Freshwater Flora and Fauna lives in Southern California with David Curtright and two lazy cats. She has been an avid gardener her whole life and enjoys riding her vintage Harley Davidson. A prolific artist, she spends her spare time selling her work online and at local craft fairs. Her introduction to water gardening came several years ago, and she delights in all the beauty that can be found there.

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