Anyone visiting Gravetye recently may have noticed that our lake is not looking quite as attractive as usual. This is unfortunate as it is such an important part of an iconic view, but thankfully this is a short-term step back for a long-term leap forwards. Over the years this beautiful lake has slowly filled with silt, resulting in some flooding problems up stream. Because of this the William Robinson Trust, the charity who manage the wider estate, took the decision to empty the lake and remove as much silt as possible. Thankfully the dry weather was helpful and it is incredible what they achieved in a week with two big diggers. Soon the banks will green up again and the lake will refill resulting in open water where we once only had silt and reeds, and the lake will be saved from becoming completely filled with silt.
This will give us the chance to plant and restore this beautiful part of the landscape and the most exciting part of that is the reintroduction of water lilies to the lake. William Robinson once had one of the world’s finest collections here and as soon as the lake has filled up enough we can reintroduce some new plants. Thankfully I have a friend who has a fascinating collection of heritage water lilies in his garden nearby. Every year he divides them and was kind enough to offer us some new plants for our project. As soon as the diggers left our lake we went to visit his ponds for inspiration. It was so exciting to see his beautiful plants and the sort of effects we may be able to achieve now our lake has been cleared. Of all the water lily’s I saw that day the most striking was one called Nymphaea ‘Carolina Rosea’, with a stunning, large, pink and cream flower. This was bred in 1908 by a close friend of William Robinson called Monsieur Latour-Marliac. In his nursery near Bordeaux he spent decades breeding some of the most beautiful plants ever produced, and as well as supplying Gravetye with many plants he was also responsible for the Impressionist artist Monet’s fascination with water lilies at Giverny. It only seems right that this beautiful historic plant takes centre stage in the planting of our newly revived lake.