Wilfred (Bill) Schmidlin
The Legacy of William Tricker
by Kit Knotts with Jim Lawrie
Images provided by Ruth Tricker Schmidlin and Janice Schmidlin
Click images to enlarge
William Tricker was born Charles William Brett Tricker in
England in 1853. He was the son of Charles Tricker, a gardener.
The family lived in Bishop Hortford, Hertford, Herts, just northeast
of London. April 17, 1876, at age 23, he married the hometown
girl Elizabeth Hewitt, aged 20.
The Marriage Certificate of
William and Elizabeth Tricker >
Click to enlarge
He apprenticed at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, immigrated to
the United States in 1885, and became a naturalized citizen October
6, 1900. In the US, he first worked for several years as a gardener
on a Staten Island estate and began experimenting with waterlilies.
He established an aquatic nursery in Clifton, New Jersey. He
began the business and issued his first catalog in 1892.*
< William Tricker's
Certificate of Naturalization
< Business card from the
Staten Island years, circa 1890
Victoria Regia (Tricker's Variety)
and Victoria Regia Randii
From The Water Garden, 1897
In the winter of 1893-94 a European house sent Tricker seeds
purported to be Victoria regia (today V. amazonica).
Some of those that germinated had light green leaves that made
relatively high rims at an early age. William Tricker "provisionally"
distinguished this different Victoria as 'Tricker's variety'.
Further investigation by Tricker and Henry
S. Conard revealed that the stock came from Corrientes, Argentina,
and was V. cruziana. That this new type tolerated cooler
temperatures than V. amazonica created even more interest
in growing Victoria and other aquatics.
Tricker published his classic book, The Water Garden, in 1897.
In it he described Nymphaea pulcherrima, later known as
N. 'Blue Beauty', as a "Garden hybrid of American
origin". The description indicates that this perhaps best
known Tricker hybrid was a chance seedling of N. caerulea
rather than the result a purposeful cross.
He sold his business to Henry
A. Dreer Nurseries in Riverton, New Jersey, in 1897, and
went to work for Dreer's until 1905 or 1906, managing the aquatics
department. During this time Dreer's introduced the hardy cultivars
N. 'James Gurney', N. 'Wm. Falconer' and N.
'Wm. Doogue' (1900). In 1901, it introduced N. 'James
Brydon'. Though N. 'James Gurney' was only offered for
one year, reason for the withdrawal unknown, the other three
cultivars were very well received. Tricker was not credited with
creating these cultivars but it is likely he did so.
In 1906 Tricker again established his own aquatic nursery
business in Arlington, New Jersey. William Tricker, Inc., issued
its first catalog in 1912.
N. 'Wm. Falconer'
From Dreer's Garden Calendar 1900
Click to enlarge
Tricker and his wife had six children who reached adulthood
and two who were still-born. Tricker died in 1916 and was buried
in Arlington. His youngest son Charles was born April 6, 1890,
and would be the member of the next generation to carry on the
In 1927, Charles Tricker purchased 16 acres in Saddle River,
New Jersey, selling the increasingly valuable property in urban
Arlington. He purchased the new property, in an agricultural
area in northern New Jersey, from the Packer family, owners of
the town mill.
Two greenhouses from Arlington were dismantled and reconstructed
as the back greenhouse of what was then William Tricker, Inc.
and is today Waterford Gardens. In 1928 and 1929, as finances
permitted, the main greenhouse was added. Over the next few years
local rail service, necessary for transporting fish (in milk
cans), declined. About 1930, Charles purchased another water
garden nursery in Independence, Ohio, which had better rail facilities.
William Tricker in the greenhouse at Arlington
one of the two later moved to Saddle River.
The Independence nursery had been founded by Albert Buskirk
and later run by noted aquarist and chemist William G. O'Brien
(1889-1928). Bill Schmidlin, born September 24, 1907, worked
for Buskirk during the summers when he was in high school. When
he graduated in 1926, he became a full time greenhouse employee.
Charles Tricker discovered him and made an arrangement with Bill's
mother, widowed with six children to care for, to send Bill to
Saddle River to run the greenhouses, with the proviso that half
of his salary was sent directly to her. Bill slept in a room
off the salesroom of the nursery and took his meals at a boarding
house which is now the police station. Bill met Ruth Tricker
in her father's greenhouses and they later married.
Schmidlin effectively became manager of the Saddle River nursery,
while Charles Tricker devoted much of his attention to other
local business interests. When Tricker died in 1961, Schmidlin
bought out the existing stockholders and became the sole owner
of both the Saddle River and Independence facilities/businesses.
In 1986 Schmidlin sold the business name and Independence
location to Richard Lee. The year before, he had sold the Saddle
River business to prominent New Jersey landscape architect John
Meeks, who renamed it Waterford Gardens. Meeks asked Schmidlin
to stay on as chief propagator, a position he held for about
10 years. He retired when he was in his mid-80s and his health
no longer permitted long hours and the heat of the greenhouses.
Bill Schmidlin died May 28, 2001. Ruth Tricker Schmidlin, at
age 93, lives independently, drives herself to shops, church
and to play bridge. She has been a treasured resource for this
* A copy of this 1892 catalog can be found
in Cornell University's Mann Library.
Gallery of Plates from The Water Garden
by William Tricker, 1897
Knotts, Kit. Seeds
of the Century
Knotts, Kit. Victoria's
Lawrie, James. Conversations with Ruth Tricker
Schmidlin December 2005 through April 2006.
Mastrantonio, Louise. Personal correspondence,
Moon, Mary H. Plantsmen in Profile, III: Charles
Tricker. Baileya 5, pp. 133 - 136, 1957.
Pagels, Walter. 'Mrs.
Robert Sawyer' or 'Independence'?
Pagels, Walter. The
Saga of Blue Beauty
Slocum, Perry D. & Robinson, Peter with
Perry, Frances. Water Gardening, Water Lilies and Lotuses. Timber
Press, Inc., Portland, OR, 1996.
Tricker, William. The Water Garden. A.T. La
Mare Printing and Publishing Co., Ltd., New York, 1897.
Tricker, William. "Origin of Hybrid Nymphaeas".
The Garden, February 23, 1901, p.139.
William Tricker, Inc. Catalog, 2006.
Business card image provided by Wendy Coffey
Trade Catalogs, Rutgers University