Back in 1982 there were fewer people in the water gardening profession and even fewer forums for sharing information.

Something as simple as determining a waterlily’s correct name could be difficult with few sources of often conflicting information. News of recent hybrids and introductions was almost non-existent. Even basic water gardening information was relatively scarce in print. There were no waterlily or water gardening groups at any level – hobbyist, academic, or professional.

In 1982 Charles Thomas (then of Lilypons Water Gardens, USA) planted a seed among other waterlily enthusiasts for creating a society. He fertilized it relentlessly and two events then heightened interest for forming the organization. In 1983, the first local water gardening group in the USA formed in Colorado, as the Colorado Water Garden Society. The following year, one of the few water gardening writers, Gordon Ledbetter, visited the US from Ireland. Charles Thomas capitalized upon the occasion, inviting him to visit and help launch the new 'Water Lily Society'. Hundreds from the US and many from Europe attended a well-planned affair (was there an official name for the event?) where the organization was officially announced on September 22, 1984. A list of our Founding Members can be found at the bottom of this page.

With officers and an editor to guide them, the talented group of enthusiasts proceeded to grow the Society at a very rapid rate. The activities of 1985 included incorporation as a non-profit organization, the first issues of our journal, expansion of membership to several hundred, and our first annual Symposium (more details of our past symposia sites at this site).

From its inception, the Society was envisioned as an international group and within a year had members from 40 U.S. states and 10 countries. It was decided to change the name to 'International Water Lily Society' (IWLS) so potential members would understand its scope, and the first symposium outside of the USA was held in the UK in 1988. While waterlilies were the association’s primary focus, interest in allied topics was strong. Therefore, 'The Water Lily Journal' was re-titled 'The Water Garden Journal' within its first year, and also included articles on related subjects. The organization’s last name change acknowledged the importance of these associated areas and in 1998 it became the 'International Waterlily & Water Gardening Society' (IWGS).

The tools used to disseminate the latest and best information have also grown over the years. A nucleus is still the Journal, our annual Symposia, and a strong network of knowledgeable people. This has been added to with our developing website and online community, an extensive reference library, international registries of Nymphaea and Nelumbo, and a resurgence of our IWGS Certified Collections of these plants.

Over thirty years from our inception a number of our original volunteers still continue to help plan the Society’s future. They have been joined by many others from around the world who share their passion. In spite of (or because of) their diverse backgrounds and knowledge, they strive to grow a Society committed to enhancing and expanding the information available about waterlilies and water gardening. Members now have a place to turn, no matter what their situation may be, whether they’re retailers looking for suppliers, growers and public gardens improving their techniques, hybridizers testing new lilies, academics widening their horizons, or hobbyists keen to learn more. The original seed has blossomed and the Society continues to educate and inspire thousands of water gardeners around the world.

Founding Members

These were our founding members in 1984

Bachman, Mary Ada - Florida, USA
Beckner, John - Florida, USA
Belzak, John- New York, USA
Bennett, Norman & Jonathan - Dorset, UK
Birdsey, Monroe - Florida, USA
Bloom, Alex - Maryland, USA
Bryne, Don - Florida, USA
Burgess, Graham - Hampshire, UK
Call, Dennis - Arizona, USA
Cassidy, Larry - California, USA
Cathey, John - Texas, USA
Chicago Botanic Garden Library - Illinois, USA
Clendenen, Ronald - Texas, USA
Cobb, Kenneth - North Carolina, USA
Collins, Marilyn -Texas, USA
Combs, Elveys - California, USA
Copeland, J. - California, USA
Crum, Howard - Maryland, USA
Dailey, William - Louisiana, USA
Davies, Barbara - Pafos, CYP
Davies, Ray - Pafos, CYP
Davis, John - Florida, USA
Davis, Steven - Virginia, USA
Denton, Camille - Texas, USA
Denver Botanic Gardens - Colorado, USA
Devisme, Sylvia - Arizona, USA
Ditto, Niles - Maryland, USA
Dolezalak, Hans & Lotte - New York, USA
Emmet, Dr. & Mrs. Thomas - Colorado, USA
Everett, David & Rosalind- Middlesex, UK
Fickeisen, Florence - Arizona, USA
Folsom, Keith - Virginia, USA
Forsman, Soni & Dave - Minnesota, USA
Foster, Neal - Michigan, USA
Frase, William - Florida, USA
Gargone, Robt. & Frances - New Jersey, USA
Gilger, Anita Peek - Ohio, USA

Graham, Dr. & Mrs. Charles - Maryland, USA
Graves, I.M. - Virginia, USA
Haller, M - Ohio, USA
Hardesty, O.R. - Georgia, USA
Heritage, Bill - Hertfordshire, UK
Hesselgesser, Susan - Nebraska, USA
Hettick, Vergil & Marilyn - California, USA
lkins, Dr. & Mrs. Clyde - Texas, USA
Jackson, Ray - Nottinghamshire, UK
John, J. Thomas Jr. - Tennessee, USA
Junge, Grossman - Wehrbergen, GER
Kurtz, Sarah - Maryland, USA
Landon, Kenneth - Texas, USA
Laporte, Pascal - California, USA
Lawrie, James & Elaine - New Jersey, USA
Ledbetter, Gordon - Wicklow, IRE
Lilypons Water Gardens, Inc. - Maryland, USA
Lynch, Michael - Maryland, USA
Mahlke, Wade - Alabama, USA
Martella, Richard - Michigan, USA
McCarron, Jerrod - Pennsylvania, USA
McDuffie, Thomas - California, USA
Martin, Esther- Delaware, USA
Miller, Alice - Colorado, USA
Mirgon, John & Mary - Colorado, USA
Moore Water Gardens - Ontario, CAN
Morris, Peter - Vermont, USA
Nelson, Rolf & Anita - Texas, USA
Nutt, Patrick - Pennsylvania, USA
Nuttal, Jr., C.E. - North Carolina, USA
O'Donnell, Bob - New York, USA
Pagels, Walter - California, USA
Parker, Alan - Louisiana, USA
Perry, Frances - Devon, UK
Potts, G.L. - Oklahoma, USA

Preston, Lawrence - Ohio, USA
Purcell, Jim - Oregon, USA
Renius, Vem & Carol - Washington, USA
Sacher, Richard - Louisiana, USA
Sausaman, Jare - Pennsylvania, USA
Schuster, Eberhard - Augustenhof, GER
Selling, David W - Ohio, USA
Serger, John - Manitoba, CAN
Sheatsley, Stephanie - California, USA
Shepherd, Richard - Texas, USA
Shuman, Carl Klase - Pennsylvania, USA
Sichveland, Marsha & Dan - Georgia, USA
Siebenthaler, Jack - Florida, USA
Slocum, Perry & Maggie Belle - Florida, USA
Slocum, Peter - Florida, USA
Stetson, Paul & Evelyn - Massachusetts, USA
Strawn, Dr. Kirk & Char1ene - Texas, USA
Stricker, E.A. & Paula - Missouri, USA
Stufano, Marco Polo - New York, USA
Swindells, Philip - Yorkshire, UK
The Lily Pond - Arizona, USA
Thiele, Jim - Florida, USA
Thistlewood, Shir1ey - Alberta, CAN
Thomas, Charles & Sally - Maryland, USA
Thomas, Mr. & Mrs. George – Maryland, USA
Thomas, Victoria - Maryland, USA
Thomas, Virginia B. - Maryland, USA
Thomas, Virginia J. - Maryland, USA
Uber, Ted - California, USA
Wasson, Ernie - Rhode Island, USA
Wencel, William - North Carolina, USA
Wicklein, W.A. - Maryland, USA
Wicklein, W.A. Ill - Maryland, USA
Widdison, Gary - California, USA
Williams, Peter - New York, USA
Winch, Charles - Arcadia, AUS