History of the Colorado Water Garden Society

A water garden society - in Colorado’s Mile High City? A few years back this question was asked by many people around the United States. Before long the society became well-known in the U.S., and other countries around the world noticed Colorado’s interest in water gardening. Since the Colorado Water Garden Society’s beginning, other water gardening societies have formed, and water gardening has become one of the fastest growing branches of horticulture.

The birth of the Colorado Water Garden Society was initiated by Denver Botanic Gardens’ aquatic horticulturist Joseph V. Tomocik. He gave a class on Nymphaea (water lilies) on February 13, 1983. He asked anyone interested in forming a water lily society to remain after the class. Ten people remained. Three were willing to accept officer positions for the society’s board of trustees: myself, President; Jody Cue, Vice President; and Scott Sprague, Secretary/Treasurer. The seven others who served as supporting members were very helpful later as committee chairpersons and with other activities.

Correspondence soon began with commercial water gardening suppliers to learn about how other plant societies - water gardening societies in particular - were structured. However, when registering with the Royal Horticultural Society in England, the board was informed that there were no other water gardening societies. This meant that Colorado’s water garden society was the first in the world. To the board this meant one thing - they were on their own.

During the next few weeks meetings were held to write - and rewrite - the society’s constitution and to put together committees and assign chairpersons. It was decided to name the society the “Colorado Water Garden Society” rather than the “Denver Water Lily Society,” which might have restricted the membership. By April 2, 1983 the constitution was written to satisfaction, and on April 24, the first Colorado Water Garden Society general meeting was held in Denver Botanic Gardens’ administrative building, the Botanic Gardens House. From this meeting the society has grown to what it is today.

On May 11 and 12, 1984 the Colorado Water Garden Society (CWGS) made its first appearance at Denver Botanic Gardens’ Plant and Book Sale. Each year since the society has handled the aquatic and bog plant section of the sale. A day for garden and pool tours of the CWGS members also was started in 1984. A barbecue or picnic now ends this annual event.

In June, 1985 the CWGS held its own first plant sale. Since the Gardens’ May sale was too early to sell tropical Nymphaea, the focus of the June event was the auction of these tropical water lilies. Of course, hardy Nymphaea and other aquatics also were sold. This sale has also become a yearly event for the CWGS. Also in 1985, CWGS members were first present at garden centers for weekend seminars and events to answer questions and inform people about water gardening. Members still participate in these events, helping meet one of the CWGS objectives - to stimulate the study and culture of aquatic plants. In 1986 the CWGS was invited to exhibit at the Colorado Garden and Home Show in the Horticultural Hall. This was the society’s first showing before the public. Because of its affiliation with the Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs for many years, the society was present each year. Also in 1986, CWGS members joined with speakers from Lilypons Water Gardens and a speaker from England to hold a mini symposium.

In 1987 the CWGS started an endowment fund at Denver Botanic Gardens. The funds are used for the Gardens’ aquatic plant collection and other related water gardening expenses. Contributions have continued most years since. The same year, the CWGS and the International Water Lily Society held the International Water Lily Society Symposium at Denver Botanic Gardens.

In the May, 1990 issue of Horticulture magazine, associate editor Teri Dunn wrote an article, “The Colorado Water Garden Society.” The article told about the CWGS and water gardening in the Rocky Mountain region. It also told about Denver Botanic Gardens’ aquatics and Tomocik’s work with Nymphaea.

In August, 1994 at Sparsholt College in Winchester, Hampshire, United Kingdom, the International Water Lily Society presented an Award of Appreciation to the Colorado Water Garden Society. The award recognized CWGS’s contributions to the International Water Lily Society’s purpose of promoting the appreciation and enjoyment of water gardening.

Currently, many CWGS members volunteer at the Denver Botanic Gardens throughout the year. Each fall members help put away the aquatics for the winter. In spring they help repot the aquatics and place them back into the pools for the summer display. The society also participates in community projects, such as the restoration of Denver City Park’s water lily pond and work at Hudson Gardens south of Denver.

April 2003 Newsletter


To see the rest of this Educational Pamphlets filled with great information, join now!