Waterlily and Lotus Exhibition & Symposium

Row upon row of lotus were eagerly investigated at Waterlily World in China.
Row upon row of lotus were eagerly investigated at Waterlily World in China.

The first International Waterlily and Lotus Exhibition and Symposium was held in Qingdao, China near the end of July, with over 150 attendees from 13 countries around the world and seven districts of China. The ocean port of Qingdao, the center of the 2008 Olympic sailing events, is a beautiful modern city between the mountains and the ocean, with flowers and trees landscaping many major highways.

Traveling to a far country is both exciting and intimidating, but with the lure of Chinese Waterlily World and the amazing progress in aquatics made in China and the rest of Asia in recent years, this event was not to be missed! Some of us arrived early and were privileged to have an advance glimpse of Waterlily World. As soon as we stepped through the gates, we were amazed and excited to find that 800 varieties of lotus and about 300 varieties of tropical and hardy waterlilies awaited our discovery in custom-built ponds throughout the 20 hectares of rolling hills.

Innumerable concrete free-form show ponds held waterlilies and aquatic plants in peak condition, and rows upon rows upon rows of large ceramic pots displayed amazing lotus with huge buds or blooms. The impressive Opening Ceremony at Chinese Waterlily World was attended by hundreds of people, including the Chinese news cameras and press. The incredible displays of new varieties and old favorites in lotus and waterlilies, both tropical and hardy, kept us all entranced for hours as we walked up hills and into valleys lined with ponds interspersed with many varieties of luscious fruit trees.

On Sunday we were privileged to have 10 speakers from China and around the world, with inspiring topics about aquatics and water gardening. Lectures ranged from Dr. Subir Gosh who enlightened us on the state of the wetlands of India, and the edible, commercially valuable, medicinal and traditional uses of the wide range of aquatic plants there; to Rick Bartel, who discussed the vital interaction of aquatic plants in water gardens; and then to Grant Mitchell who entertained us with his adventures seeking new and rare lotus in rural China.

In Qingdao we enjoyed many local attractions, including the Polar Ocean World, the Flower Market, Zhongshan Park and the Modification Works of the Licun River Wetland. Some of us stayed on to tour Beijing and major attractions like the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and Beijing Botanic Garden. Our guides learned to stop and wait whenever there were lotus or water features to admire and photograph!

The whole event was superbly organized with the collaboration of the City of Qingdao, Chinese Waterlily World, the 2014 Horticultural Exposition Committee and Larry Nau of Bergen Water Gardens, Rochester. The incredible displays of aquatic plants at Chinese Waterlily World, the superb hospitality of our hosts, and the beautiful city of Qingdao inspired some of us to plan a return visit in 3 years, when the 2014 International Horticultural Exposition will take place. It promises to be even more incredible!

Photographed by Rowena Burns, of Burns Water Gardens, Canada © July 2011.

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