While we were away on holiday last week I discovered an interesting 8 acre water garden, just south of Weymouth. It is called Bennetts Water Gardens and has been developed on the site of the former Putton Brickworks. The quarries closed in the 1950s and the pits turned into natural lakes, filling with ground water which seeps into the pits at depths of ~15m/50′.
In 1957 Norman Bennett developed a pond plant business here, with a special interest in water lilies. Many of his original plants were sourced from the same nursery in France that supplied them to Claude Monet for his Giverny garden.
Over the years the pits have been landscaped by the Bennett family and in 1990 the gardens were recognised as a Site of Nature and Conservation Interest (SNCI) for their extensive range of flora and fauna, notably large numbers of Great Crested Newts.
Today the Water Gardens host a National Collection of Water Lilies (see Plant Heritage), with over 140 different hardy cultivars growing in the lakes, including specific varieties painted by Monet. It can be no surprise then that, to commemorate 100 years since Monet painted ‘Water Lily Pond 1899’, a japanese style bridge was installed at one end of the Lake known as The Cutting.
I can’t say that I am especially fond of water lilies, but there is definitely something magical about their relationship with the water, with the light, with the clouds and sky.
I can understand the obsession that led to a series of ~250 oil paintings by Monet, 17 of them of focussed on the japanese bridge in different weather and lighting conditions.
Monet once said that the aim of his vast Water Lily triptych was to supply “the illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon or bank.”
I love the different textures in this shot: Between the pads, flowers and water, the glistening raindrops on the pads and the questing Mare’s tail (Hippuris vulgaris I think).
The gardens were adorned with gazebos, benches and lanterns, but I found myself framing the photos away from those elements, mostly.
As we walked around the lakes the sun came out and the water lily flowers gradually opened, transforming the views. A stiff wind fluttered the lily pads, showing their darker, mottled undersides.
I am afraid that I made zero notes on the varieties of lilies in the collection. I may get more interested in specifics when we start creating a large pond in our garden (planned for either later this year or next – i.e. when we move the pool). Bennetts have a fairly comprehensive online catalogue though.
Here are some of my favourite individual lilies:
I’ll leave you (and me) with the thought that pond maintenance may be a fully submersive activity!
And a final willow framed view of that Japanese Monet Bridge.