A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Perry's Giant Sunburst lotus in ravishing leaf and bud

Nelumbo nucifera Perrys Giant Sunburst 081215 640

 

By August, the competition to be noticed is at its peak. Perennials are at their height, while annuals and tropicals are within inches of overtaking them. Thanks to its enormous leaves held high above the water and, of course, its staggering flowers, this lotus is never less than a star.

 

Often grown in an earth-bottom pond, where its remarkably aggressive roots can colonize another acre in just a few years, lotus is also at home when planted in a container no larger than a dishpan. I've done just that here—and then sunk the pan in a thirty-gallon garbage can, so that I can have a lotus anywhere in the garden that there's enough sun. This year, a spot in the middle of the narrow "alley" of grass leading out to the reflecting pool seemed ideal for this Nelumbo nucifera 'Perry's Giant Sunburst': If ever there were a plant that was worth a closer look—and, conversely, could show up when seen from far away—lotus is it.

 

Nelumbo nucifera Perrys Giant Sunburst 081215 garbage can 640

 

The round leaf blades can be up to three feet across, and are on petioles that extend as high as five feet above the water. The buds are held about a foot higher still, ensuring both the prominence needed to attract pollinators and, simply, the room needed for the enormous flowers.

 

Blooms can be as large as ten inches across. Each morning, their huge petals relax outward to open up the interior of the blossom; at dusk, the petals rise upward and inward to close tightly back over it. Borne high above the leaves, the flowers (and their many in-a-frenzy pollinators) have enough room for all the necessary choreography. In two days—three at the most—the performance is through: The petals are shed during the night, as if the actor had stepped out of costume all at once. Then, the flower's dramatic flat-topped pollination receptacle (you see one from a previous blossom) begins to mature into a strange dried structure, with round lotus seeds rattling in individual holes.

 

Stay tuned!

 

Here's the day by day performance of this flowerbud. Incredible!

 

Here's how to grow this iconic aquatic perennial, as well as a look at its massive and alarmingly vigorous chains of rhizomes.

 

Here's a look at the fireworky starburst of pink and white roots formed at the tip of each new rhizome that has escaped to grow into open water.

 
 
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