A FLOATING pontoon on the famous lakes at Sheffield Park and Garden has been installed for its first Waterlily Festival to give visitors the chance to walk out and get closer to the blooms.
The National Trust estate, near Uckfield, has four lakes, which form the heart of the garden with paths circulating through the glades and wooded areas surrounding them, and waterlilies were introduced to them at the turn of the last century by its owner Arthur Soames.
The varieties he introduced Nymphaea marliacea ‘Carnea’, Nymphaea marliacea ‘Chromatella’, Nymphaea ‘Gladstoniana’, Nymphaea ‘Mrs Richmond’ and Nymphaea ‘Escarboucle’ and have remained on the lakes ever since.
General manager Laura Booty says, “The waterlilies are such a special feature of the garden and we hope visitors will enjoy the events, workshops, talks and evenings we have planned to celebrate them. This unique garden has so much to offer all year round but the waterlilies are certainly a stunning time of year to visit.”
A floating pontoon on Middle Lake will allow visitors to walk out and get closer to the blooms, offering a unique chance for a different view of the landscape.
An installation of giant lily pads and flowers will create a visual impact on Ten Foot Pond competing with the scale and grandeur of the surroundings.
The garden, a horticultural work of art created through centuries of landscape design with influences of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton and surrounded by 250 acres of parkland, will open later for two evenings over Midsummer weekend. The garden takes on an enchanting feel in the evenings with light, scents and sounds changing as day turns to night.
Visitors can discover more about waterlilies through a programme of events, talks and creative workshops running throughout the five-week long Festival. There is also an opportunity to talk to the garden team about planting and caring for the waterlilies.
Once a year, the water levels across the lakes are dropped so the garden team and volunteers can put their waders on and get into the water to carry out general maintenance. In order to preserve the mirror lakes properties that are associated with Sheffield Park and Garden, any vegetation around the edges has to be cleared, as well as weeding out the yellow wild varieties of waterlilies called nuphar that tend to take hold.
The balance of waterlilies to clear water also has to be managed to maintain an ideal ratio of 1:3. Some of the plants are removed and others are moved to create the definite groups of waterlilies. Soames’s philosophy was to plant in large swathes but to allow space for the plants to stand out against the garden backdrop, something the garden team continues to follow today. All this work means that by early summer, the lakes and waterlilies look resplendent.
The Waterlily Festival at Sheffield Park and Garden, Uckfield, is on from Saturday June 9 to Sunday July 15. Normal admission prices apply. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffield-park-and-garden.
* Waterlily Wednesdays
Wednesdays June 13, 20 and 27 & July 4 and 11 Jul, 11.30am
Meet one of the gardeners by the lake to learn more about the history and horticulture of the waterlily collection. Learn what it takes to look after these iconic flowers and take the opportunity to ask any questions.
* Photography workshops
Saturday June 16 and Tuesday June 19, 9.30am-12.30pm
£25 per person/booking essential
Join professional photographer Roger Bloxham to learn how to get the most from your digital camera, focusing on the waterlilies on the lake. A break for tea or coffee and cake in the tearoom is included.
* Midsummer Evenings
Friday and Saturday June 22 and 23, 6.30pm-9.30pm
£8 per adult/booking essential
Enjoy the waterlilies in the late afternoon sunshine with music drifting across the lakes. Refreshments will be available and stargazing will be taking place on the parkland after 9.30pm.
* Printing Workshop
Wednesday July 11 and Saturday July 14, 9am-4pm
£85 per person/booking essential
Spend time in the garden studying and sketching the waterlilies before returning to design, create and use your own waterlily printing block. All materials are included, plus tea or coffee and cake. Lunch can be purchased from the tearoom or bring your own.
Above and below: views of the waterlilies across Middle Lake/pictures: NTPL/Nina Elliot-Newman
Above: the waterlilies on Ten Foot Pond/picture: NTPL/Nina Elliot-Newman
Below: Nymphaea Escarboucle Crimson/picture: NTPL/Nina Elliot-Newman
Above: Nymphaea Chromatella/picture: NTPL/Nina Elliot-Newman