Gardeners' Dirt: Award-winning texas water lily

By Cara Marie (CJ) Jones - Victoria County Master Gardener
June 12, 2014 at 1:12 a.m.

The extremely hardy and renowned Texas Dawn Water Lily will help you begin building your water garden.

The extremely hardy and renowned Texas Dawn Water Lily will help you begin building your water garden.

Texas Dawn, developed by Kenneth Landon in San Angelo, USDA Zone 7B, in the 1980s, is one of the best yellow-flowered water lilies since N. Marliacea Chromatella made its appearance in 1887, according to lily expert Perry D. Slocum.

It received the prestigious International Water Lily and Water Gardening Society's American Award in 1990 and was recognized as Lily of the Decade during the '80s. Recently, it was named to the Texas Superstar specialty list of outstanding plants.

Becoming a Texas Superstar

It isn't easy to become a Texas Superstar plant. Only the toughest, most reliable and best-looking plants make the cut. Every plant earning the Texas Superstar designation undergoes several years of extensive field trials by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, both part of the Texas A&M University System.

They must be proven to be super-performing plants under Texas growing conditions. During the field trials, plants receive minimal soil preparation, minimal water and no pesticides.

Final decisions as to which plants should be designated a Superstar are primarily based upon observations made at replicated plots and demonstration trials across the state. In some cases, recommendations made by university horticulturists in other Southern states are also considered.

Because ornamental plant performance can be rather subjective, a great deal of input is solicited from competent horticulturists throughout Texas who understand the importance of both landscape performance and marketability. They consider the limited resources, skills and time available to ordinary weekend gardeners.

Another important factor considered when selecting plants is whether a sufficient number of plants can be produced to meet the increased consumer demand generated by Texas Superstar designation.

In recent years, the Texas Superstar list has introduced a wide variety of plants that meet its rigorous standards. From annuals like the Laura Bush petunia to perennials such as Belinda's Dream Rose, trees like the Lacey Oak and specialty plants like water lilies and orchids, the Superstar list has produced reliable, easy-to-grow trees, shrubs and blooming plants.

Many species of hardy Superstar plants can be seen at the Master Gardener Victoria Educational Gardens at Victoria Regional Airport. Follow the signs once in the airport grounds and enjoy a quiet afternoon or evening. It's free and open dawn to dusk. And if gardeners are not in pursuit of a Superstar, they'll find hundreds of other interesting annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees somewhere in the VEG, too.

Texas Dawn delivers

Recently voted the official state water lily by the Texas Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Perry, Texas Dawn is a butter-yellow lily with a lemony scent and can be expected to produce seven to eight blooms at a time by mid-summer. In late summer and fall, the flowers may take on an attractive pinkish cast. Landon describes his lily as, "a hardy lily that will bloom in part-shade ... a cross between Mexicana, which is wild in Texas, and pink starlet."

Endless water gardens

The opulence of water gardens like Versailles in France is still a much sought after pleasure by backyard gardeners. With such lily varieties as the Texas Dawn available, today anyone with determination, a little money and careful planning can have a water garden in his or her own backyard.

Thanks to modern plastics as liners and for water flow, the back-breaking, time-consuming, labor- and skill-intensive processes of building a beautiful water garden have been reduced to a weekend job with minimum effort.

Water garden choices are almost endless. Whatever the gardener's time, bank account, and desired ambience, there is a water garden to fulfill the vision. From an outrageously expensive over-the-top water garden to a casual backyard barrel, enjoying water gardens and features is now accessible for most weekend gardeners.

Don't let your calendar or pocketbook deter you, as there is no time like the present to begin planning and building.

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at



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