In our last days in Italy I have started to reflect on my time here, the people, the places, and the plants. I know that when we get back most conversations will center on where we went and my favorite and least favorite parts of the trip. While perhaps not the most beautiful, I do think the most peaceful garden we visited was the Papal Garden in Castel Gandolfo. Maybe it was the small town atmosphere after the hustle and bustle of Rome, or the fact that the gardens have only recently been opened to the public so the garden felt quiet and undisturbed. My favorite part of that particular garden was a quiet space in the back of the garden with a lily pond in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary where a previous Pope came to pray. While the space itself was beautiful I was drawn in by the water lilies growing in the pond itself.
Water lilies are part of the Nymphaeaceae family and are considered basal angiosperms. They grow as rhizomatous aquatic herbs with their roots submerged in a body of water and their leaves and flowers floating on the surface. There are two types of water lilies, hardy and tropical with tropical lilies being separated into day and night blooming. Lilies can grow well in any USDA hardy zone; however, tropical waterlilies can become highly invasive in mild Mediterranean climates. Lilies require a lot of sunlight in order to grow and bloom and prefer still or slow moving water. Lilies provide both an aesthetic and functional purpose when planted in a pond. Water lilies function in a pond is to create an ecosystem where fish and other animals can live by providing shade which limits the growth of algae and the temperature of the water. These plants also help to recycle nutrients and keep the water clean. So when I’m asked what my favorite place in Italy was, I think I’ll have to say this spot, not just because of the water lilies, but they definitely did help.-Lisa C. Maciques