Notes on the
Horticultural Establishment

Translation by Father J.M. Berghs from a document typewritten in French, author unknown, found in the Latour-Marliac papers by Ray Davies, and published in the Water Garden Journal VI-4, 12/90.

Image by Perry Slocum
Stylized by Kit Knotts

This establishment, cradle of the hardy water lilies, is unique in the world for it is the only one of that size to deal exclusively with aquatic plants and more particularly with nymphaeas and nelumbiums.

It was founded in 1875 by M. Bory Latour-Marliac, who up to then, had only busied himself with managing his agricultural properties. Nevertheless botany had always greatly interested him and he had a passion for flowers.

Moreover it was a tradition in the family. Between 1830 and 1850 his father had published several little books on the local Mediterranean flora.

He was greatly encouraged by his grand uncle, Baron Bory de Saint-Vincent, general, great botanist, member of the Academy, director of the Paris Museum d'Histoire Naturelle and member of the Academie des Sciences.

An article on tropical water lilies, published in 1858 in a horticultural review, specially attracted Mr Bory Latour-Marliac's attention. After, for that time, a rather well documented study, the author goes into raptures over the elegance and the rich colourings of those plants.

He concludes by expressing his regrets that our ornamental lakes and watercourses should be deprived of such a magnificent ornamentation.

B. Latour-Marliac decided to attempt hybridising. Godefroy-Leboeuf provided him with a plant of Odorata Rubra or Rosacea of the Americans, a unique specimen in Europe at that time. Van Nocett supplied him with Sphaerocarpa and from Kew Gardens he got seeds of tropical Nymphaeas.

Finally he obtained N. Marliacea Chromatella in 1881; some time later Nymphaea Rosea and then it was the whole range of reds, pinks, yellows, whites etc.

Every year we bring out new varieties.

No other horticulturist has achieved appreciable results. It is true that for commercial reasons, we have never put for sale breeding plants that could be of any use. Some methods of mixing are never revealed to anybody and only sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of Mr. B. Latour-Marliac transmit then to each other.

The Horticultural Establishment extends over 4 hectares near the little Gascon village, Le Temle-sur-Lot, an ancient commandery of the Order of the Temple.

The area is slightly undulating with a little stream winding through it. The water plants take up 920 ponds, made of bricks or reinforced concrete of 120 cm by 180 cm and 50 cm deep.

The number of plants growing in them is 250,000 to 300,000. (Later changed by pen into 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 J.B.)

The lowest price at present is 6 new francs for a rhizome.

Based on the size of the stock only, this eloquent figure allows to judge the value that could be attributed to the Establishment.

All the varieties are carefully separated by concrete partitions, which prevent the possibility of mixing up.

The young plants are grown in about three thousand dishes of 50 cm. in diameter, which gives a rather strange look to the Establishment.

The ponds are supplied with water by means of an electric pump and we are fortunate enough to have nine springs in the Horticultural Establishment, which has always been known with the name 'Bateau'.

The tropical water lilies are grown in the open. The ponds destined for them are fed with a strong spring, which allows the water in which they are growing to be kept at a temperature of at least 10ºC, even during the most rigorous colds of winter.

We are now trying to render exotic Nymphaeas hardy, which is not an easy task.

We have obtained the highest awards at all international exhibitions, but the one we value most of all is the Veitch Memorial Medal, awarded to M. Bory Latour-Marliac in 1889 by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Detailed articles about the Establishment and its achievements have appeared in horticultural magazines of the whole world, among others "The Garden" and "Gardener's Chronicle".

A few years ago a Geneva horticultural magazine also published a long essay on it.

Several books on the Establishment have been edited by English, American and Swiss botanists.

Our plants have appeared in the catalogues of numerous foreign horticulturists and from all parts of the world we receive important orders, which enables the return of foreign currency to France.

Not only do we supply a great number of individual French customers, but also all French horticulturists. We shall mention a few of the best known: Etablissements: G. Truffaut - Vilmorin - Grandes; Roseraies du Val de Loire - Etablissements Delauney - Croux - Hemeray Aubert - Thuilleaux - Cayeux - Livoire - Conagires and many more. Also foreign professionals from England, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Holland, Canada, US, Central and South America place orders with the Latour-Marliac Establishment, who, thanks to their hybridizing secret, are alone able to create new varieties and to respond, at least partly, to the orders for plants, which every year increase in number.

We say 'partly', for the orders we get from all parts of the world, are so important that we are forced to reduce them.

To the Horticultural Establishment of aquatic plants spread over more or less 2 hectares, a plantation of 2600 fruit trees (only 10 years old), peach and apple trees (eating apples of the varieties 'Delicious Rich Red' - 'Golden Delicious' - 'Canada' - 'Reine des Reinettes' has been added. Fruits destined for sale. The pruning and upkeep of those trees employ the staff during the winter and from early spring onwards in the Horticultural Establishment.

 Canary Water Lily. THE GARDEN. JULY 23, 1887

Extract from a paper read by M. Latour-Marliac before the Royal Horticultural Society, August 9, 1898.

by Maurice-L. Vilmorin, Revue horticole 1891

 Documents provided by Ray Davies to Father J.M. Berghs, published in the Water Garden Journal VI-4, 12/90:
Notes on the Horticultural Establishment Latour-Marliac, undated
Summer Near Water and Marshes, undated

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