Water Lilies

You would have to include the Sunland Water Gardens among the lesser-known, if not hidden, horticultural treasures of our area.
Carrying more than 200 varieties of water plants, this floating nursery has a surprisingly low profile, considering it is one of the most significant growers and purveyors of aquatic vegetation in Los Angeles, counting many of the major garden centers among its clients.
For the past 22 years, Jacklyn Nagasawa has been the energetic and enterprising owner of Sunland Water Gardens, inheriting the garden property from her grandfather, who had operated a cactus nursery on it in the 1960s. Nagasawa has always run it as a family business, assisted primarily by her brother, Jeff Kite.
Water lilies are the mainstay of most water gardens, and Sunland Water Gardens carry a wide variety of the two classes of lilies, both hardy ones and tropicals. These two classes of lilies have distinct characteristics and it’s worth getting to know the differences between them.
Hardy water lilies can grow almost anywhere in the United States because of their cold tolerance; I remember seeing them in the giant pond/small lake of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. In Southern California, they are virtually evergreen, with some leaves visible even in the middle of winter. They propagate themselves by rhizomes – the same propagation structures found in bearded irises and Agapanthus (lily-of-the-Nile) – and will persist for years in the pond.
Tropical water lilies grow from bulbs and thus are a bit more delicate than their hardy cousins. They will also not survive a severe frost. Yet, they are worth the risk if you live in the Valley because of the qualities of their flowers. The blooms of tropical lilies have a strong fragrance, unlike the weakly scented hardy lilies. In addition, tropical lilies bloom far more abundantly than, by comparison, the somewhat sparsely blooming hardy lilies.
Finally, tropical lilies open up on stems held above the water surface whereas hardy lilies float on the water surface itself. Individual flowers of both types of lilies last four or five days. Hardy lilies open in the morning and close at night, except on overcast days, when they remain closed. There are two categories of tropical lilies: those that open in the morning and close at dusk, and those that open at dusk and close in the morning. Sunland Gardens currently has red, pink, white, yellow, and orange hardy lilies available as well as day-blooming blue and pink tropical lilies.
Hardy lilies bloom from late winter until early fall, whereas tropical lilies bloom from late spring until early winter. If you live in a reasonably frost-free area, try planting hardy and tropical lilies together. That way, you should have some lilies blooming nearly year around. Water lilies do best in full, all-day sun although they may bloom respectably enough with half-day sun. The plants, which are kept in one- or five-gallon containers that rest on the bottom of the pond, should be fertilized with special fertilizer tabs that are inserted into the soil – which typically consists of decomposed granite – in the containers.
According to Nagasawa, Sunland Water Gardens not only grows water plants, but carries pumps, filters and pond liners as well as goldfish, koi, turtles, frogs, tadpoles and water snails.
Sunland Water Gardens is at 9948 Sunland Blvd., Sunland. The gardens are open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call (818) 353-5131.

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