Sheffield Park: The history of the waterlilies and what it takes to look after them

Sheffield Park cream waterlily

Waterlilies were first bought to Sheffield Park and Garden over 100 years ago. Learn about their history and what it takes to look after them.

The waterlilies at Sheffield Park and Garden

A relatively modern aspect of the garden design, the waterlilies were an addition made at the turn of the last century during the time of Arthur Soames. In the year that we celebrate the impact he made at Sheffield Park, we're looking forward to seeing the new heritage varieties we planted last summer impact the lakes.

Arthur Soames became the owner of the house, park, garden and the wider estate in 1910. At the time, the hardy varieties that were being bred were in dazzling pinks and buttery yellows.  The varieties that he introduced were Nymphaea marliacea ‘Carnea’, Nymphaea marliacea ‘Chromatella’ Nymphaea ‘Gladstoniana’ Nymphaea ‘Mrs Richmond’ and Nymphaea ‘Escarboucle’. These have remained on the lakes ever since.

A close up of a waterlily on the lake
Sheffield Park waterlily
A close up of a waterlily on the lake

Last summer, we added more waterlilies to the lakes to build on the impressive displays and add some more groupings to Upper Woman's Way Pond and Ten Foot Pond. We're looking forward to seeing the difference these new plants make during the Waterlily Festival this summer.

Staff and volunteers planting waterlilies in Upper Woman's Way Pond
Sheffield Park planting waterlilies
Staff and volunteers planting waterlilies in Upper Woman's Way Pond

Looking after 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.

Gardeners working in the lakes at Sheffield Park and Garden on the waterlilies
Sheffield Park waterlily maintenance
Gardeners working in the lakes at Sheffield Park and Garden on the waterlilies

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' philosophy was to plant in large swathes but to allow space for the plants to stand out against the garden backdrop, something that the garden team continue to follow today as you can see from the photo below. All this work means that by early summer the lakes and waterlilies look resplendent.

The waterlilies, as seen from above
Sheffield Park waterlilies from above
The waterlilies, as seen from above