Thursday, July 10, 2008

RIP Kirk Strawn - the second master of Water Lilies

I just received my WGI update for July and learned that Dr. Kirk Strawn passed away June 9, 2008, in Deland, Florida USA aged 86. Water Lilies are a remarkably specialised genus of plants (in terms of their requirements) when compared to, say Roses and yet they've been lucky enough to attract the attentions of two revolutionary geniuses in the scientific art of plant hybridisation. The first Latour-Marliac changed our understanding of plant breeding and through his genius gave us many cultivars still grown together not to mention Monet's lilies.
Kirk Strawn built on Marliac's genius where all others had tried and failed and gave us a new suite of hybrids, the majority of them unique in form and shape and showing a range of stunning new colours. The first plant I ever spent money on, years before I'd heard his name, was Strawn's Nyphaea "Colorado". To this day I invariably pick a Strawn hybrid as my favourite in a mixed lily pond - often without knowing it to be his. Check out James Knock's wonderful series of galleries here to see what I mean.
We may have lost a genius but Dr. Strawn's legacy will live on and on in ponds across the world for generations to come just as his predecessor Latour-Marliac's has. I don't have a picture of any of Strawn's hybrids on this computer so I will leave you with an image of one of Kirk's longtime goals and inspirations - a blue lily; the one goal still to be definitively achieved is the blue hardy lily - Strawn never got there but he was known to dye a white lily blue to prank his friends.



Bob Strawn said...

Kirk will be missed by a lot of us.

tai haku said...

He certainly will Bob - thanks for stopping by and I'm sorry for your loss.