Water Lilies thrive in tropical climates around the world and share similarities and requirements to the prized Lotus Flowers. Both wonderful flowers have cultural symbolism within India.
Somnath Pal is from Mumbai, India, and has been growing Water Lilies for more than 15 years. He hybridises to create new and exciting varieties. Here, he talks about his passions and how they began.
Water Lilies: The initial days
“There was a time in India when the only Water Lily someone could recollect was a Nouchali Blue & Night Bloomer. There was no name for them and no one had any idea about how to grow them, or their importance.
One fine day my brother-in-law took me to a nearby plant nursery to buy some plants. I was 16 years old then. Fortunately, it was my first chance to see Water Lilies growing in tubs. It was a love at first sight. It amused me so much that I decided to grow Water Lilies.
The Indian concept of hybridising Water Lilies
Water Lilies are very new to India. In fact, until now 99 per cent of the population did not know or care about them. This means it is both challenging, rewarding and different when you like and grow them.
In India, there are both temperate regions and tropical regions – that means you need both tropical and hardy types to suit different regions’ needs – but as Water Lilies are so new to India, most of us buy them from Thailand and other countries.
So why don’t we hybridise and create in our own country and make something new so that the world can be proud of us?
I am growing almost 100 varieties of Water Lilies. Some are species and many have different characteristics from one another, many make seeds by themselves.
Why not try and cross one with another, considering the potential and characteristics of plants? This trying and understanding would definitely bring more varied results. There would be lot of repeated outcomes, but some could be exceptional and it is this idea that encourages me to produce and bring something more valuable and new to the world.
In today’s world, creating a new water lily is very challenging as there is too little scope for improvement. But that little improvement, if you can achieve it, will be a milestone, bringing something to the world which very few could do – and that imagination in itself is very motivating.
Water Lilies: My achievement
My first registered hybrid was of the 2016 “N Fortune Teller”. That registration built a lot of confidence in me, helping me to try more crosses which I carried from 2016 and 2017 early, and grew seeds from my crosses.
I had been able to produce a few more hybrids, test them and register five more with IWGS this year. These little achievements are a lot for someone like me to carry further and create more wonderful lilies.
I seek to produce lilies which do not burn on hot days, open early in the morning and stay open till late evening. The flowers are usually large, with more profuse blooms, stable in performance and growth, and multiply reasonably well.”
Somnath works with an IT firm as a Project Manager and, apart from water lilies, he loves to workout and dance. He has made two blog posts on Water Lilies (here and here) and he would love to create and build more of a network for his Water Lily passion. He has, along with his friend Ganesh, created a Facebook group called “Nymphaea & Nelumbo” to socialise with people who share the same passion, make people more interested in growing Water Lilies and Lotus, help people to have more of an understanding and knowledge, and to spread awareness.