16 February, 2017

Blue African water lily

  by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea

As a child on holiday, I can remember seeing farm dams covered with blue African water lilies. Farming practice has changed (Farming in South Africa 1980) and sadly I no longer see wild water lilies. But I have always wanted one in our garden pond. This week we welcomed our very first flower!

African blue water lily

Ten days ago we saw it blooming in the pond at Harold Porter NBG and I wondered how long, how many years, we would have to wait. Only planted ours in March last year.

At Harold Porter NBG

Kirstenbosch has a dedicated pond for this blue water lily. While we waited, I was reassured when the leaves came thru with scalloped edges. It should, give me blue flowers. Found at Harry Goemans Garden Centre. The 'spiller' in our pond is green hair algae - we need barley straw please.

Scalloped leaf of blue water lily

April last year we were at Tokara and saw a prized and cherished plant to keep my longing alive.

Blue water lily at Tokara garden in April 2016

Our Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea is a tiny young plant with a handful of leaves.

In Egypt it is called the blue lotus. They will flower from September to February. 9 to 5 the flower I photographed this morning is neatly furled up (you missed one petal). Fragrant flowers attract bees - and I watched one yesterday. There are five African varieties.
Nymphaea  nouchali var. caerulea, which is widespread all over South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia as well as further north in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, DRC, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania Sudan, Egypt and west Africa, from sea level to 2700 m. Related to buttercups and magnolias. Kew's specimen notes that Noakhali is a district in Bangladesh, and caerula is of course sky blue. Dedicated to water maidens (nymphs) the flowers rise from the mud as a symbol of purity and immortality. The leaves are carefully designed both to lie flat on the water and to float. Any droplets roll across mopping away the dust. Full sun (but we have shade from the carob tree). Still water (but our frog spouts). Should be repotted in August each year. Info from PlantZAfrica at SANBI

First flower on our Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea

Keeping company with dwarf papyrus Cyperus prolifer  (as a 'filler' in Froggy Pond) and our hippo.

Lily with hippo

The 'thriller' of Froggy Pond. An early flower for Wildflower Wednesday with Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Lily at Froggy Pond

Above the mountain beyond the lemon tree four neat puffs of cloud. A huge steam train, or 'Puff the magic dragon lives by the sea'. Photobombed by our neighbour's palm, which I defrond when it interferes with my slice of mountain. And that ivy ... sighs. My list when I get my gardening energy back!

Puff the magic dragon lives by the sea

In Camps Bay I made do with a pink water lily, a horticultural horror, which was all they had that year. Took a piece with us to Porterville.

Pink water lily at Porterville

Where Ungardening Pond acquired a huge colony. This blue water lily is my February Dozen for Diana.

Ungardening Pond
in Porterville November 2013

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  1. Stunning! Your pond is beautiful, and congratulations on that first bloom! We use barley straw in our pond, too, and it works. :)

  2. You were on a mission. Looks like congratulations are in order.

  3. That water lily is absolutely spectacular, Diana! I wonder what my husband would say if I asked him to dig me a pond? I can't remember how long it's been since I've seen frogs in any of my gardens and a pond might change that, not to speak of the water plant options.

    1. Have heard, but not seen, frogs here.
      Just a little pool, pretty please? It's amazing how refreshing it is to sit by a pond, soothed by the sound of trickling water.

      But you have a bubbler fountain for your grateful birds!

  4. always a special moment when a longed for plant blooms; and what a beauty - lovely.

  5. An amazing waterlily, Diana. Adore the color. Your Froggy Pond is beautiful. As I've said before, I admire the names you choose for your garden spaces. Froggy Pond would be appropriate for our pond, with so many live and fake frogs there, but you chose it first... P. x

    1. Do use it!
      Mine is tongue in cheek. There is a children's holiday camp along the coast called Froggy Pond.

  6. It's beautiful. We had a very small pond in our first garden. More like a puddle really. But I had a water lily (pink one) in that and really loved it. Your blue is far more exotic!

    1. I used to love sitting by the patio pool in our Camps Bay garden. About the size of a bathtub. Just the dwarf papyrus and I.

  7. There's something magical about water lilies. How wonderful to have one blooming in your own garden.

  8. Froggy Pond looks wonderful, and the garden has come on such a lot. Your Ungardener is pretty impressive, too. Good luck with the ivy.

    1. One day of extreme gardening, and three sacks for the municipal compost later, the ivy has withdrawn, for now.

  9. Beautiful! I searched for a blue water lily but could never find one that was hardy enough for our climate.

  10. The photos are lovely, and the blue water lily is absolutely beautiful, enough to make me think of a pond in the garden, but I don't know where it would fit!

  11. It's a beauty, Diana! Isn't it wonderful to finally locate a plant that grows wild locally, but can't be readily found in the garden centres... :P I have a little list!

    1. I must write my little list for the Kirstenbosch plant sale coming up in March.

  12. re. the steam train clouds . . . In Dorset there's a ridgeway running parallel with the coast but a little bit inland. In the sea, there's the Isle of Portland. You can often see clouds making their way in a direct line from one high top to the next, missing out the lower places in between.


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