The gardens are a subtle balance of formal and naturalistic planting styles, combining both historic and contemporary features.
They have been created with care and sensitivity around the original historic Michelham Priory structure, which was later converted into a Tudor hunting lodge. Over 40 years of garden developments allows a contemporary garden style to harmonize with the naturalistic medieval garden recreations.
The 7 acre garden island is offset to great effect by the longest water-filled medieval moat in the UK. It teems with wildlife (such as dragonflies, damsel flies, many varieties of birds including kingfishers, woodpeckers, cuckoo’s, as well as bees & butterflies). The moat also contains swathes of indigenous water plants, such as yellow flag Iris pseudoacorus, purple loose strife and yellow fringed water lilies. The Michelham site is a designated nature conservation area.
The recreated Medieval gardens weave together the features of medieval gardening, for example the Hortus Conclusus (an enclosed, often spiritual garden) and the Hortus Deliciarum (an enclosed ornamental garden). Many of the features presented are drawn directly from sources, such as the surviving template plans of the 9th Century St Gall Monastery and from illuminations appearing in Books of Hours from the period.
The Cloister Garden has been recreated on the site of Michelham Priory’s original cloister.
Divided into quarters around a well, it is managed as floral mead, surrounded by the ornamental planting of a medieval pleasure garden, which includes Gallica roses, Rosa alba, Madonna lilies, columbines, herbs and pottager vegetables. The garden is enclosed by clipped yew hedges, and then bounded by a green oak walkway pergola, draped in grape vines.
The apple orchard was significant in the medieval world, as a place providing fruits and blossoms, contributing to the self-sufficiency of the monastic community. It would also have been a place of spiritual contemplation. Our orchard is planted in central rows, under planted with naturalised daffodils for spring display, whilst a wild flower and grass meadow in the summer. The apple trees are surrounded by mulberry, walnut, sweet chestnut and arcane medlar trees.
The Physic Garden parades a collection of herbs, medicinal, culinary and utilitarian, which would have been available to the Priory in the Middle Ages. The herbs selected are of those described botanically and medicinally by John Gerard in his 1597 Herbal. An accompanying Michelham Physic garden booklet, as well as extensive labelling, tells of the different uses and effects the herbs were thought to have, some of which may now seem absolutely hair-raising to modern minds.
The rest of the grounds and lawns abound with specimen trees, for example a glorious honey locust Gleditsia triacanthus, the tulip flowers of several Liriodendron tulipifera and a 1500 year old yew tree. A Magnolia walk makes for a fragrant spring display and the liquidamber styraciflua, the katsura tree or Cercidiphyllum japonicum and the ironwood or Parrotia Persica provide an unforgettable autumn colour.
The 50 metre herbaceous border has been replanted in a contemporary style: Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Sedum, Veronicastrum, Astrantia, Monarda, Sanguisorba, Liatrus provide vibrant colours all summer long, accentuated by the architectural foliage of grasses such as Miscanthus, Panicum, Stipa, Deschampia.
The Kitchen Garden is both ornamental and productive. It is sheltered by a clipped yew hedge and a box parterre. The vegetables are grown in 4 rotated beds around a central Wisteria arbour, complimented by espaliered apple trees. Vegetable types and varieties change on a seasonal basis providing produce to the Michelham Café, allowing them to offer a selection of specials over the seasons.
The garden is currently looked after by one full time gardener and one part time gardener, with the kind and generous help of the garden volunteer team. We look forward to welcoming you, to our beloved garden and are happy to talk gardening, plus answer planting questions, if we are available when you should visit. Formal Garden Tours are also available throughout the year. Please view the events page for dates and book in advance by contacting the office on 01323 844224 or firstname.lastname@example.org