It is one of the oldest religious symbols - the lotus flower, significant to Asian culture, mostly because of what they symbolize and their ties to Buddhism and Taoism.

“My two majors at the University of Rochester were biology and anthropology,” Bergen Water Gardens owner Larry Nau said. “So anthropology kind of creeps into it. The study of cultures around the world and their understanding and helping to share them with people, you've got to build bridges. And the way to do that is through understanding and sharing knowledge.”

Traveling to China in 2011, Nau had led an international waterlily and water gardening symposium. Through his travels he was able to meet with garden directors and collectors, and most importantly his wife.

“That created some goodwill among the Chinese,” Nau said. “Many of the botanical gardens. And it led me to eventually my wife and also many varieties of Lotus. And we started importing with one a few years. And now we're up to about 250 varieties that we offer for sale. And traditionally, there's only about 25 varieties available in the United States. So we've greatly expanded the market.”

Creating the largest lotus collection outside of China.

“We've called it Super excellent 13 and it's one of the famous hybrids from China and they grow very nice here,” Lili Nau said.

Larry and Lili educate their visitors about the flowers but also the culture behind it.

“It's not just Chinese, but it's all through the Asian culture, whether it be Laotian, Cambodian, Thai and Indian, because of course, the Buddha is often seen pictured sitting on a lotus,” Larry said. “So it's a major significance, especially in Indian culture, to make a certain offering to a specific deity for certain things to come true that you're wishing for, whether it be a new car or good health.”

Selling their plants across the world  to customers in Italy, Germany, India, Denmark, and Russia. Larry and Lili have kept their own personal collection which includes two pink lotus flowers.

“Lili was diagnosed with breast cancer and luckily she's had a couple operations and a treatment and successfully in remission,” Larry said. “But we wanted to do something both locally and for the community. And so we brought in this lotus called Shocking Pink. The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester came out and received the $2,100 check towards our efforts of education and research for breast cancer. When customers purchased them, they would send notes of support and best wishes for Lily in her recovery.”

Excited for the turnout of their annual Lotus Festival, Larry and Lili hope visitors continue to come year round to celebrate the culture and cultivation of their collection.

“We still had a record number of people attend,” Larry said. “Today it's been totally overwhelming and it’s great, beautiful sunshine. The lotus are in bloom and people seem to be enjoying themselves.”