Waterlily Festival at Sheffield Park and Garden

Crimson waterlilies on the lake at Sheffield Park, East Sussex

Join us this summer to marvel at the beauty of the waterlilies on the lakes at Sheffield Park and Garden, through a variety of tours, events and workshops.

They are as synonymous with Sheffield Park and Garden as the wonderful autumn colour, so this year we're taking a closer look at the waterlilies during our first Waterlily Festival. Join us from 9 June to the 15 July to celebrate the serenity and beauty of these flowers on the lakes through a series of displays, events and talks. 

The view across Middle Lake
Sheffield Park Waterlilies including house
The view across Middle Lake

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. He 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.

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. All this work means that by early summer the lakes and waterlilies look resplendent. 

Get closer to the waterlilies during the festival

In order to get closer to the waterlilies this summer, we're installing a floating pontoon on Middle Lake to give you the opportunity to walk out onto the water and see them close up. It's normally only the outdoors team that get to see waterlilies against the backdrop of the garden from this view point, so we're excited to be able to offer this unique opportunity to visitors this summer. 

Get close to the waterlilies on the water
Sheffield Park cream waterlily
Get close to the waterlilies on the water

You can also expect to see an installation of giant lily pads and flowers created by award-winning community art charity, Same Sky. They will create a big visual impact on Ten Foot Pond, matching the scale and grandeur of the garden surroundings. 

Events taking place this summer

Whether you're a keen gardener, a photographer, a budding artist or just a lover of Sheffield Park and Garden, we have something to interest you during the festival. Every Wednesday, one of the garden team will be by the lake to talk about the history and horticulture of waterlilies. Learn what it takes to look after these iconic flowers and take the opportunity to ask any questions about growing waterlilies in your garden at home.

Learn how to use your digital camera at a Sheffield Park and Garden photography workshop
Sheffield Park photography workshop
Learn how to use your digital camera at a Sheffield Park and Garden photography workshop

If you’d like to capture the waterlilies on camera, then perhaps one of our photography workshop mornings would be of interest? Join professional photographer, Roger Bloxham, to learn how to get the most from your digital camera using the waterlilies as your subject matter. Expect to be out on the pontoon and around the water's edge to capture those close-up images, as well as the long views across the garden capturing the entire landscape.

Perhaps an early evening picnic next to the lakes listening to classical music is more your thing? Then one of our Midsummer evenings will be just for you.  The garden takes on an enchanted feel in the evenings with the light levels, fragrance and sounds changing as day turns to night, an opportunity not to be missed. Or if you’re of an artistic nature, then a printing workshop focusing on the waterlilies will be taking place with local artist, Catherine Greenwood. Booking details, dates and times can be found at the bottom of this page.

Pack a perfect picnic
Smiling older man with picnic basket
Pack a perfect picnic

Waterlilies around the property

To complete your visit, there will be some waterlily-themed items available to purchase in the gift shop and waterlily displays in the tearoom and Visitor Reception. It really will be a festival to enjoy all around the property, so make a note of the dates and come along to join us to marvel at these beautiful blooms.

Identifying the waterlilies

We've put together the sheet below to share some information on the varieties of waterlilies in the lakes here, as well as a map showing you where everything is during the festival. We will have some copies available at Visitor Reception, but please feel free to print one of these to bring along or save to your phone or tablet.

Sheffield Park and Garden Waterlily Festival guide (PDF / 1.1MB) download