Monet’s Waterlilies

July 20, 2019 Tamara Kilbane , Curator of Aquatic Collections

Following an unusually cool and wet spring, summer has finally made an appearance at the Gardens. Throughout our ponds, waterlilies are putting on a spectacular show, with hardy varieties taking center stage this month. These floating-leaved aquatic plants were made popular by the famous painter, Claude Monet. However, another artistic mind was responsible for the creation of the beautiful lilies that first caught Monet’s attention.

Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, a Frenchman who lived from 1830-1911, is considered the father of hardy waterlily hybridizing. He created over 100 hybrids in a rainbow of colors using species from around the world, including North America, as parent plants. Up until the introduction of these hybrids, most people in Europe were only familiar with their native white-flowering hardy waterlily, Nymphaea alba.

In 1889, Latour-Marliac displayed many of his new waterlilies at the World’s Fair in Paris, where they won first prize and caught the attention of Claude Monet. Inspired by the colorful hybrids, Monet placed an order with Latour-Marliac’s nursery (which is still operational today in Le Temple-sur-Lot, France) soon after he completed work on his new garden in Giverny. The rest, as they say, is history.

Many of Latour-Marliac’s original hybrids were unfortunately lost over time, but several remain among the most popular hardy waterlilies grown around the world. Here at the Gardens, 20 of these historically significant hybrids (listed below) can be found growing in an appropriately named water garden: our Monet Pool.

Latour-Marliac waterlily hybrids at Denver Botanic Gardens along with their date of introduction:

  • ‘Albatros’ (1910)
  • ‘Amabilis’ (1921) *
  • ‘Andreana’ (1895)
  • ‘Arc-en-ciel’ (1900)
  • ‘Attraction’ (1910)
  • ‘Aurora’ (1895)
  • ‘Darwin’ (1909)
  • ‘Escarboucle’ (1909)
  • ‘Fabiola’ (1908)
  • ‘Formosa’ (1900)
  • ‘Gloriosa’ (1896)
  • ‘Gonnere’ (1914) *
  • ‘Indiana’ (1912) *
  • ‘Laydekeri Fulgens’ (1893)
  • ‘Laydekeri Lilacea’ (1893)
  • ‘Marliacea Carnea’ (1880)
  • ‘Marliacea Chromatella’ (1880)
  • ‘Paul Hariot’ (1905)
  • ‘Sioux’ (1908)
  • ‘Virginalis’ (1908)

*Introduced after Latour-Marliac’s death

To see an exhibition of Monet’s artwork, including a collection of his famous waterlily paintings, visit the Denver Art Museum’s exhibit Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature which runs from October 21, 2019 through February 2, 2020.

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