Plant Answers  >  Ken Landon - Article from Facebook page for the Water Garden Club of South Texas

Ken Landon
October 17, 1946 - July 14, 2021

Duane Eaton

Ken Landon, famed water lily enthusiast, was found dead on July 14th in his home in San Angelo. He was 74 years old.

Ken was a true legend of the international water lily world. By the way, in other countries "water lily" is actually one word - waterlily. Us Americans just like to be different.

Ken got his big start with water lilies working in Austin at the University of Texas. But he didn't stay in Austin all the time as he traveled the world collecting water lilies. In one particular story he walked across a river stepping on rocks to get to the other side. Once there he discovered that some of those rocks he had stepped on were actually the backs of alligators. YIKES! Ken was known as the "Indiana Jones of Water Lilies".

He was a founding member of the International Waterlily & Water Gardening Society. For his work with water lilies they recognized Ken in 2001 by inducting him in the IWGS Hall of Fame.

Eventually Ken had the largest collection of water lilies in the world. A place to keep them was obviously becoming a major issue with him. He wanted a public display so others could enjoy his water lilies. Cities all over the country offered Ken lucrative deals to bring his collection to their city. BUT, Ken was from San Angelo and he really wanted to go home.

The city of San Angelo agreed to let him use city property to build what would become the International Waterlily Collection. It became a sanctioned display by the International Waterlily & Water Gardening Society. There are even road signs directing visitors to the Collection. Oh and there is no cost to visit it!

In October of 2005 Dr. Jerry Parsons (with Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service), John Loggins (owner of Lone Star Aquatic Nursery), Forrest Appleton (with, and I went to San Angelo to visit Ken and his International Waterlily Collection. The collection is absolutely AMAAAAZING. Ken told us that as big as the display was it held less than 5% of his total collection. WOW!

I had always planned on going back to see where the rest of it was. Alas, I never did that.

Ken's passion for water lilies led him to create the International Waterlily Preservation Repository. His collection holds water lilies that many people thought had become extinct.

Oh with all of those water lilies he couldn't feed them with just any fertilizer. Gracious no! Ken developed his own fertilizer and called it Pondtabbs. It's available in a bunch of stores as well, of course, as on Amazon.

Ken was more than just a collector of water lilies. He was also a hybridizer. One of his creations, "Texas Dawn", was recognized by the Texas Legislature as the official water lily of Texas. That plant was also selected as the lead water lily in the water garden section of the Texas Superstar Program of Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service.

I don't know when but Texas A&M's AgriLife Extension Service recognized Ken with its Heroes of Horticulture award. I do know that at its inaugural meeting in Austin in 2002, the Texas Association of Pond Societies presented Ken with a Life Time Achievement Award.

San Angelo, along with the entire world of water lily enthusiasts, have lost a great friend. I believe that Ken was single. I know that at one time he had two sisters. My thoughts and prayers are with Ken, his family, and all of his friends.

This picture is of Ken with the Collection's main pond behind him.

It was truly exciting to be there with Ken. As you can see, each individual pond was surrounded by a fence. Each fence had a gate that was locked. Well, Ken had "THE KEYS".
As we approached a pond, he would unlock the gate so we could walk right up to the pond's walls for the best viewing possible of the water lilies. We got some FANTASTIC pictures! A truly amazing opportunity.

Here Jerry is following Ken to see some exciting
water lily that Ken wants to point out.

Parsons (standing) with Ken Langdon
on 9-13-2006

The president of the Austin Pond Society (left) presents
on behalf of the Texas Association of Pond Societies
the Life Time Achievement Award to Ken.

(By the way, I wrote this tribute myself. The information contained is derived from almost 20 years of being involved with this great hobby. I also took the pictures.)

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