Waterlily Court

As part of Longwood Reimagined, this garden space will open November 22, 2024.

Fragrant, Inspiring, Intimate, Unique Plants
Best Seasons to Visit
Spring, Summer, Autumn

About This Garden

The elegant and intriguing beauty of our Waterlily Court is thanks to a diverse array of aquatic plants from around the globe—as well as hybrids developed at our Gardens. The massive forms of the South American water-platters are the centerpiece of the display, and their entrancing beauty has, at times, led guests to believe they were part of an artist’s exhibition. Nestled among the platters, waterlily blooms pepper the pools from May through October, offering a sweetly scented layer to the space. Aquatic cannas, many from our own breeding program, reach up to 8 feet high, adding a vertical element to the display. The lotus, revered for thousands of years as a symbol of beauty, purity, and enlightenment, also thrives here. The court’s collection reaches its peak in late summer, when the intoxicating fragrance of the Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’ fills the air as its magnificent, pineapple-scented blooms unfurl.

Originally opening in 1957 and re-envisioned by renowned landscape architect Sir Peter Shepheard (1913-2002) in 1989, this engaging space is a central haven in our historic Conservatory, bridging the east and west sides of the complex. With the opening of Longwood Reimagined in 2024, the space will be framed by a new covered arcade to the north and west, with the peaked roofline of the new West Conservatory visible beyond the arcade.

A Bit of History

Our history with displaying Nymphaea dates back to 1957, when the Waterlily Display first opened to the public. The collection was the result of a close working relationship between Longwood’s first Director, Dr. Russell Siebert and his father-in-law George H. Pring, a world-famous waterlily breeder from the Missouri Botanical Garden. Many of those early plant acquisitions made in the 1950s are still in our collection today. Patrick Nutt, the caretaker of the collection for 38 years beginning in 1957, was a significant influence in the development of our outdoor water gardens. As a founding member of the International Waterlily and Gardening Society, Nutt’s research and experience in the hybridizing of waterlilies is legendary and began with the introduction of Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’. Developed in 1960, this cross of Victoria cruziana and Victoria amazonica surpasses its parents with respect to its vigor, flower and leaf size, ornamental attributes, and cold tolerance. For decades, to support capacity building and Victoria conservation, Longwood Gardens has distributed surplus seed to public gardens around the world, including the Missouri Botanic Garden and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who happened to be some of the first gardens to display Victoria to the general public. These garden recipients, plus dozens more, have been able to germinate Longwood’s seed, which is not readily available commercially, and display and interpret these awe-inspiring plants. 

In October 2012, Longwood received national accreditation from the Plant Collections Network (formerly the North American Plant Collections Consortium) of the American Public Gardens Association for our waterlily collection.