Summer is here and once again water garden enthusiasts can count on their night blooming lilies taking center stage in the pond creating a fabulous floral background for outdoor entertaining and bringing a mass of compliments.
“I like to call them the working man’s lily because they are there every evening when you come home after a long day, waiting for you at their beautiful best,” says Paula Biles Executive Director of the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society, based in Bradenton, Florida. “And you can even enjoy them the next morning before rushing off to work because they usually remain open until mid-morning. In contrast, most garden enthusiasts never get to enjoy their day lilies because there’s nobody at home when the flowers are at their finest.”
Wholesaler Neal Lucht of Pacific Water Gardens in Molalla, Oregon says that’s it’s important that retailers understand that night blooming tropicals are like hanging baskets.
“They are big, showy and colorful and consumers need to see them displayed in the right setting in order to appreciate them. Consequently, I believe the best way for retailers to market night blooming lilies is to make them the focus of a social event.”
For several years, retailer Mark Harp of The Pond Store in Sumner, Washington has held a Moonlight Pond Evening on the first Saturday of every month excluding January and February. The informal social gathering offers food and relaxed conversation bringing together a cross section of water garden enthusiasts and potential pond owners.
“We usually have a turn-out of about 100 people,” says Harp. “The small talk is about ponds and pumps, lighting and of course lilies. We advertise these events. Also, whenever we are involved with a home expo, visitors to our exhibit are invited to come and learn more in this informal setting. It is an ideal opportunity for newcomers to experience the beauty of owning a pond.”
Many retailers say that it’s essential for potential water gardeners to experience as many ponds as possible to get ideas to incorporate in their own gardens.
“We get a lot of visitors at the special evening fireworks and dancing fountain events we hold around our lily ponds,” says Mike Jennings, Senior Gardener at the Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
“One event that is particularly popular is called Evening and the Waterlily. Visitors arrive in time to see the day lilies before dinner. Afterwards, we go back to the ponds to enjoy the night bloomers. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to ask questions. The star of the evening is always the Victoria lily with its wonderful pineapple fragrance and giant saucer leaves.
We invite visitors to come back the next night to see how the flowers have changed color from white to pink to crimson red over a 24-hour period. It also changes sex. The size of the plant is also a huge attraction is its too big for most water gardeners to grow successfully in a home pond and has to be appreciated in this public setting.”
According to Cory Shaleen of Pond Appeal in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania most people go through three ponds during their lifetime because they initially start out too small.
“Size is definitely governed by the customer’s pocket book. However, I always try and warn customers to look ahead because very often they start out too small. The moment the pond owner becomes a water garden enthusiast and gets hooked on adding lots of lilies and possibly fish, they realize they need more space. I’ve had customers end up with a pond that’s four times the size of the original one and spending more than they intended in the long term,” explains Shaleen.
He points out that the most popular pond size is 11 ft by 16 ft. To have this installed professionally with a naturally balance aquatic eco-system that includes plants and fish costs between $7 000 and $10 000.
Retailers across the country report increased interest in ponds featuring night blooming lilies because they add such a wonderful background to any entertainment area.
“I call night bloomers the entertainer’s lilies too,” says Biles. “They are such show offs. However, ponds also offer a wonderful escape zone in the garden because they spell relaxation and tranquility. My favorite night bloomer is Wood’s White Night, which was also selected by the International Waterlily and Water Gardening Society as one of the Best Aquatic Plants for 2006. It’s magnificent on a moonlit night and of course looks terrific with accent landscape lighting.
“Interestingly, when it comes to hybridization of night bloomers there doesn’t seem to be the same effort by nurseries and lily growers as applies to day lilies, ” says Biles.
Craig Presnell of Luster Aquatics in Zolfo Springs, Florida agrees.
“Old standards remain firm favorites,” he says.“ I also think the problem is that no one has come up with stuff that’s substantially different. One of my favorites is Red Flare, although it can be tough to grow. In the pink range, I like to suggest Mrs. Emily Grant Hutchins with its large dark pink cup-shaped flowers and bronzy foliage and Antares with its large spectacular blooms to customers.”
Biles says she feels that many retailers often overlook opportunities to promote and sell night bloomers.
“Typically, in the northern part of the country retailers don’t push night bloomers because of the cold climate at certain times of the year. The trick is to treat them as annuals. If retailers started promoting them as soon as the weather begins to warm up they would create a lot of business for themselves because once established, night bloomers will continue blooming for many months until the winter frost kills them. By marketing them as annuals, it simply means that gardeners will come back the following year and start all over again because the show is definitely worth it. For retailers, its on-going business.”
Some retailers have managed to create year-round business for themselves simply by acquiring an Internet presence as night blooming lilies can be shipped anywhere in the country.
Others say they focus on their local market by allocating their advertising budget to include local TV advertisements.
Rich Sacher of American Aquatic Gardens in New Orleans, LA says that while he advertises heavily on TV and various magazines, he always gets a great response from tourist magazines.
“We don’t ship plants but over the years we have found that visitors to New Orleans, if they happen to be garden enthusiasts and see our advertisements in a tourist-orientated publication, make a plan to visit the nursery. If they are flying, we bare root the lilies and package them for the plane ride home. If they are driving, it’s simply a matter of picking a full-grown plant and carefully packing it so that it doesn’t mess. When they get home all they have to do is place it in the pond.
“ Personally, I like to promote the advantage of buying a fully-grown plant. We have done all the work for the customer. All they have to do is put it in the pond, sit back and watch it grow.”
This article is from Water Garden News