A real surprise, those Victorias! Belonging to the plant family Nymphaeaceae and natives of South America, these tender aquatic perennials have leaves that in their country of origin can reach two meters in diameter and present a purple underside bearing spines. During the summer, white flowers turning pink appear which fade two days after being pollinated. Given their South American origins, the chances of successfully cultivating them in our latitudes are slim, unless it’s in a hothouse at some botanical garden. To appreciate them outside, you have to travel to gardens located much further south...
During the initial construction of the Jardin botanique, the foundations of a greenhouse devoted to the growing of Victorias were sunk, but had to be demolished soon after for a number of reasons. Various attempts at raising the blooms were tried later on, but always without success. In 2014, promising trials began at the Jardin botanique and in the spring of 2015 the plant multiplication team, led by horticulturist Julie De Guire, set about conducting new trials more rigorously. Their efforts produced astonishing results! And to get the best available information about growing Victorias, the horticulturist was authorized to visit Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia, at the end of July 2015. Why Longwood Gardens? Because those gardens possess a fabulous collection of water lilies, and their experts enjoy worldwide recognition in that area.
Choosing the right species
The Victorias that we cultivate came as seeds from Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia. These seeds are the product of the cross of two species, Victoria amazonica x Victoria cruziana, known as the Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’. It’s a hardier selection that brings together the qualities of the two parents that exhibits a wider tolerance of variations in air and water temperature. But even so, raising this hybrid out of doors, in our climate, poses a real challenge, the temperature range in Québec being wider than the one experienced by our southern neighbors!
Finally, Victorias in our pools!
Our trials have borne fruit, and to this point the results have surpassed all our hopes. We refined our cultivation techniques and the plants are growing wonderfully well – we even have one that’s flowered! Our goal is to master the technique of growing them outdoors in time for 2017, an anniversary year of the founding of Montréal. We also hope to be able to install our Victorias in a new heated pool designed especially for them at the Aquatic Garden.
Meanwhile, hurry to see these spectacular trial plants, because if our weather conditions can be relied on, there may be only a few weeks left to admire them.