Welcome to the world of Latour Marliac in Lot-et-Garonne

Visitors to Latour-Marliac gardens can see nearly 300 varieties of water lily growing in one hectare of pools, some of which are the original, restored basins from the 19th century

Monet’s worldwide famous series of water lily paintings would never have happened without nurseryman Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, who was the first man to produce coloured hardy water lilies at the end of the 19th century. Up to then European water lilies were all white.

He owned a nursery, Latour-Marliac at Le Temple-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, and his gardens are still open for the public to visit and still selling water lilies to a growing number of gardeners discovering the world of aquatic plants.

There is one of the biggest collections of tropical water lilies with a glasshouse for the giant Victoria water lily and a collection of night-blooming lilies, as well as lotuses. There is also a botanical garden, a bamboo collection, Japanese bridge, waterfall and gazebo.

‘France does not realise that in the same way the Dutch have the tulip, the French have the water lily’

says American owner Robert Sheldon, who bought the gardens in 2007

History

The nursery was founded in 1875 by Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac for the propagation, cultivation and commercialisation of hardy water lilies. Prior to setting up his nursery, Latour-Marliac had found a way to hybridize hardy water lilies through a process that remains mysterious. There was a need, for at the time the only hardy water lily in Europe was a white one. We know from Latour-Marliac’s letters that many of his hybrids were the result of a so-called intersubgeneric cross, which is to say the crossing a hardy variety with a tropical one. The resulting hybrid, named Laydekeri Floribunda, soon went extinct, but not before he was able to cross it with species and subspecies he obtained from North America and elsewhere, including N. mexicana, N. odorata rubra and N. alba rubra. Latour-Marliac was ultimately able to build a collection of water lilies with a colour palette that ranged from delicate yellow to fuscia and deep red.

CLAUDE MONET

We know from our archives that Monet placed several orders with Latour-Marliac. He placed his first order (transcribed and translated further down) in 1894. This was the year that the painter finished construction on the water garden at Giverny. Since there would have been no plants whatsoever in the pond at that time, we see that he mostly ordered aquatic plants. It is also interesting to see in this order that he purchased as many lotus as he did water lilies. Had he had better luck with the lotus, his paintings Les Nymphéas might have been Les Nelumbium!

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