I popped over to RHS Harlow Carr Gardens specifically to see this rare flower in bloom - the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera). They are native to Asia. It is believed to be the first time one of these plants has ever flowered so far north in the UK. The RHS gardeners are putting it down to the sustained hot, dry weather we've had this summer. Apparently it needs temperatures over 20C minimum to grow and flower successfully. Hot weather is not my most favourite of conditions, it has to be said, but they say that every cloud has a silver lining and it was a joy and privilege to see this graceful, attractive flower.
The plant is growing in the recently revamped Edwardian pond, amongst the more familiar waterlilies, which were tightly closed up when I visited due to the dull and drizzly weather conditions that day. In the photo below you can perhaps see the conical seedhead (on the left) of the first lotus flower that bloomed. It has been followed by two more buds. Each flower only lasts four days or so, so I was fortunate to catch the last one at its peak. (The one on the right is starting to shrivel and lose colour.)