James Knock's Tribute
James Knock, who lives in the United Kingdom,
has been a dedicated collector of Strawn waterlily cultivars
for many years and is an expert in their identification and cultivation.
Most cultivars were obtained directly from Strawn Water Gardens
in the years 1994 through 1998. Forty one Strawn hybrids are
represented in his collection and nearly 300 images appear in
As an added bonus, James takes us through
seasonal and age related changes in coloration of many Strawn
cultivars. High summer in England, sometimes only two to three
weeks long, provides the most dramatic colors of all, often not
seen in other climates. None of the images have been color enhanced
or color adjusted. His notes on each cultivar make these pages
Brilliance of Kirk Strawn
Photos & Notes © James Knock,
Writing the notes for the following galleries
has brought home to me just how good Kirk Strawn's hardy water
lily cultivars really are.* Just what has he managed to create
that so many others have failed to do since Latour-Marliac?
Put simply, he has produced a whole range of new hybrids, the
likes of which we couldn't have even imagined a decade or so
ago. Almost without exception, Kirk's plants represent new colours
and shapes, many with much more exotic appeal than ever before.
Profile - Kirk Strawn
Before Kirk, who would have thought that we could have vivid
fuchsia pink and a whole range of salmon, peach and mingled pastel
shades, not to mention many more double and semi-double blooms?
Some of these even have characteristics more akin to the tropicals,
with flowers held high above the foliage. Water gardening has
never been such an exciting place.
It has taken enormous dedication over many years for Kirk to
produce so many wonderful plants, and many things during this
time could be easily overlooked. For example, in order to produce
just one hybrid of the quality of Kirk's, he would have had to
grow many hundreds if not thousands of seedlings to maturity.
Only then could they be properly evaluated before a possible
selection was made. It is relatively easy for anyone to grow
a few seedlings and then name them, but sadly the chances of
them being even vaguely up to Kirk's standards are virtually
nil. This is what makes Kirk's plants so special.
Another area in which I consider
Kirk to be the master is the cultivars themselves. If you look
closely at the plants he selected for naming, you will notice
that they are all clearly distinct from varieties that preceded
them. Considering that over the years he must have produced a
vast number of plants, it stands to reason that there must have
been some excellent ones which were simply too similar to what
came before to be selected. To Kirk's credit he discarded these.
It's not necessarily what you keep that makes a great hybridiser
but what you throw away! Many of the plants which Kirk did select
are quite simply masterpieces.
Something not often mentioned regarding water lilies, but really
deserving closer scrutiny, is the relationship between flower
and leaf size. Many of Kirk's creations display flowers as large
or even larger than their leaves! Before Kirk this was something
we could largely only dream of.
Not only did Kirk produce new colours with exceptional blooms,
but his plants are free flowering to the extent that some are
so prolific that I still can't believe they are not tropicals.
Some are quite extraordinary in that they never stop trying to
bloom, even in the depth of winter. I would go so far as to say
that these hybrids are almost evergreen. Only a hard frost knocks
them back, but not for long. Thanks to Kirk we can now have more
flower power per square foot than ever before, in a range of
colours and shapes never seen before.
Sadly some of his plants are already in danger of being lost
to cultivation. Already we are seeing plants for sale with somewhat
dubious labels and, just as worrisome, inferior seedlings are
creeping into the mix as well. It's worth noting that all water
lily hybrids can only be propagated by division or tuber; seedlings
are never the true plant. Everything possible must be done to
preserve the pure varieties for future generations.
What more can I say except . . . on behalf of the world's water
gardeners, huge thanks to Kirk Strawn for his truly remarkable
* Kirk has also introduced several excellent tropical
lilies but, given my climate and growing conditions, I have concentrated
on his hardies.
by Duane Eaton
Complete List of Strawn Cultivars
Water Lily Hybridization
by Kirk Strawn, PhD
Names Main | Waterlily