The International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society is proud to announce its selection for the 2012 Aquatic Plants of the Year. Each year the IWGS announces the selection of an exceptional aquatic plant in each of the categories of Hardy Water Lily, Tropical Water Lily and Marginal. The Society’s goal is to enhance each pond owner’s enjoyment of water gardening with the choice of outstanding, obtainable performers.
**Hardy Water Lily Selection: Nymphaea ‘Mangkala Ubol’**
Created by Nopchai Chansilpa of Thailand in 1997, this gorgeous, free-blooming water lily with large, very double yellow-to-peach flowers won the Best New Water Lily Competition in 2004, but has only recently become widely distributed.
To quote Richard Sacher, noted hybridizer and pond retailer with American Aquatic Gardens, New Orleans, LA: “*Mangkala Ubol is one of the best hardy waterlilies ever, especially in the southern part of the United States. Mangkala Ubol is just about the only hardy water lily that will bloom non-stop all through our torrid summers.*”
“*Mangkala Ubol also blooms on and off through the winter, whenever our temperatures are mild enough,*” explains Sacher. “*This year, it had flowers almost every week and is the earliest hardy lily to bloom in the spring and the last to stop blooming in the fall … if it stops at all. It loses some of its pink coloring at the base of the petals in summer…but retains that contrast all winter, spring and fall. It is easy to propagate, compact in size, and here in New Orleans, the most reliable blooming hardy water lily that I know of, producing more flowers in a year than any other hardy variety I have ever grown. It performs almost like a tropical!*”
**Marginal Plant selection: Orontium aquaticum ‘Big Red’**
Orontium aquaticum has been around ever since the species evolved, but this particular selection was introduced several years ago by Randy Heffner of Aquascapes Unlimited in Pipersville, PA. Orontium aquaticum ‘Big Red’ is much larger, more robust, and faster growing than the species. ‘Big Red’ also sports red stems and spadix, with large, bluish green leaves. It may be propagated by division, and also comes about 85% true from seed, making it a reasonably stable strain. This superior Orontium should be the selection of choice for anyone desiring the bright, cheerful, early spring blooms of Golden Club. Hardy to USDA zone 5, it enjoys sun or partial shade.
**Tropical Water Lily Selection: Nymphaea ‘Foxfire’**
Nymphaea ‘Foxfire’ was hybridized in 2003 by Craig Luster of Luster Aquatic Nurseries and was named Best New Tropical and Best Overall New Water Lily in the 2004 IWGS New Water Lily Competition.
According to Mike Swize of Nelson Water Gardens, Katie TX, “*The flower consists of an inner ring of narrow yellow petals, edged with pink and surrounded by an outer ring of wider blue petals. The foliage is a very striking mottled green and brown; the leaf can reach up to 30˝ with a spread of 15´ on specimen grown plants if given sufficient soil, fertilizer, and space.*”
“*Blossoms on a well-grown plant can range from 8˝ to 11˝ in diameter and are held from 12˝ to 24˝ above the water surface,*” Swize continues. “*Foxfire is a large plant, but it can be successfully grown in smaller areas by restricting pot size and trimming back older leaves. Foxfire is not a finicky plant to grow, being very robust and very cold tolerant. There is not an easier plant to grow that will command as much attention and it has always ranked as one of my favorite tropicals since its introduction.*”
**Criteria for Aquatic Plants of the Year**
Many factors are considered in selecting each year’s aquatic plants: tendency to bloom prolifically, reliability, beauty, consistency, broad appeal, availability, and vigor. The selection is made more difficult by the fact that soil, climate, fertility, and other growing conditions can make a variety perform differently for growers or for home gardeners, and also in different areas of the country, or even the world. Some plants even exhibit different habits such as deeper colors, or wider opening flowers under varying circumstances. Water lily specialists have long noted this phenomenon. For this reason, the panel always contains members from widely varying geographic areas.