By Stephanie Cavanaugh
SOMETIMES I FIND myself wanting the impossible and then find out it’s not so impossible after all. Often, this is a smack-upside-the-head moment. A solution so obvious that it should have been obvious.
Case in point. The other day I came across a photo of a lotus on a website called Nowness.* The lotus is in a very large and curious cream-colored pot, bulbous in the center and covered with lumps and mottles. It is either fabulous or creepy, I’m not sure which, anyway that is beside the point.
A blooming lotus is in said pot, which sits on a porch of what is possibly an Asian home, or an Asian-inspired home, with bamboo walls and screening and Asianly fronds in the foreground. This is also not the point.
The point is that there is a lotus growing in the pot.
I looked at the photo and said to myself: Self! Why didn’t we think of growing lotus in a pot years ago? Apparently, as I have just this day discovered, the Chinese have been doing so since the 10th century.
I had no reply.
It seems so clear now, looking at the pot and the lotus, all voluptuous of foliage and fabulous of flower; if you, meaning me, can’t grow a lotus in your garden pond (water feature) because it has become entirely too shady due to the tribute to the US Botanic Gardens you’ve been cultivating . . . plant a lotus in a pot and stick it in a sunny elsewhere.
To paraphrase Wikipedia: The lotus Nelumbo nucifera is sacred to both Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the path to spiritual awakening and enlightenment. In ancient Egypt it represented the path from death to rebirth to the afterlife.
Clearly, a must-have in this life and the next. It is also edible.
While you can go shallow with your pot and it would be lovely planted with lower-growing varieties nestled in a flower bed, this is at root a water feature, meaning that the shallow pot has to be watched constantly in the absence of rain.
A big pot is what is needed for a big display, which is what I’m perennially after. If anyone had whispered a mantra** in my ear in 1972 it would have been: Go big or go home. Lotus plants range in size from dwarf varieties with stalks no taller than 12 inches to 6-footers with monstrous blossoms—the sort of flower I covet.
As it happens, we have two very large pots; both would suit. One is green-glazed, the other a handsomely mottled terracotta. Either could be moved to the center of the front garden where a slant of sun has a regular habit of appearing—the lotus needs at least a half day of direct sun to flower.
Both pots have drainage holes, which must be plugged so water does not drain out. A layer of soil goes in, followed by lotus tubers, which are pressed down; then the pot is topped off with water. Foliage will quickly leap to the surface followed by flowers in mid-July, or so I’ve read. While you’re waiting for the lotus to emerge, you can busy up the surface with other plants like water hyacinth, which floats and has small flowers. Fine Gardening has an excellent primer, like a Cliff’s Notes on the plant.
Thus ensconced, the lotus would (in my imagination) grow magnificently, just like that picture.
There would, of course, be a little issue with mosquitos and standing water. In my case, fighting them would give My Prince something else to do besides sweeping.
*Nowness is a rather avant-garde website with a mix of videos and photos of places and people who do artsy things and somehow make a living at it and many naked people doing strange things. Also gardens, including a series called Great Gardens, which has some beauties, and interviews with those who cultivate them.
**I, personally, never received a mantra and would have promptly forgotten it anyway. But it did seem everyone else around me around then had a guru who whispered unto them a phrase that was NEVER TO BE SHARED and the recipients were all very superior about it and withholding and boring. Sniff. The mantra has, I believe, gone the way of the ice box and the charge plate.