Visit the summer garden at Calke

Sweet pea tunnel in the Physic Garden at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Calke's peaceful walled gardens are a haven of tranquility in summer. Sit back and relax in the garden deckchairs, surrounded by fragrant flowers, productive veg plots and atmospheric glass houses. The gardens are open every day from 9.30am.

Echoes of a working garden

Set on a hill to the south east of the house, sits a peaceful walled garden, once a productive working plot complete with glass houses, stoves and potting sheds.

Today, Calke’s gardens offer a glimpse of days gone by. Surrounded by extensive Pleasure Grounds and tended by a dedicated team of gardeners, the walled garden is a haven of beauty and quiet, bursting with seasonal colour and produce.

Inside these historic walls you’ll discover an unusual Flower Garden featuring a rare surviving auricula theatre, a productive physic garden which still grows a variety of fruit and veg today, and a small orchard, home to local and historic apple trees.

Faded grandeur in the domed Orangery at Calke Abbey
Inside the Orangery | National Trust Calke Abbey | Derbyshire
Faded grandeur in the domed Orangery at Calke Abbey

Through peeling garden doors, find yourself in the large upper kitchen garden – once a resort for the family who lived at Calke, now providing an open space to admire the domed orangery and nearby St Giles Church. 

Hidden gems in the gardens include the gardener’s bothy, a series of underground tunnels (once used to hide the gardeners from view of the house), and the original grotto nestled in the Pleasure Grounds.

Summer highlights in the Flower Garden

As you enter the walled garden this summer, you'll be greeted by a burst of colour and fragrance in the Flower Garden. The rare surviving auricula puts on a glorious show of historic cultivars of pelargoniums, while the borders are a riot of roses, gernaiums and peonies, with aconites and delphiniums adding some height to the borders in early summer.

In late summer, Central Yard boasts a double dahlia bed, containing around 50 varieties of dahlia. It's a breath-taking sight all the way into autumn.

The border in Calke Abbey's Flower Garden
The Flower Garden at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
The border in Calke Abbey's Flower Garden

Fragrance in the Physic Garden

Calke’s Physic Garden is very productive during the summer months, when the beds are filled up with a crop of vegetables, soft fruit, cut flowers and herbs.

A fragrant sweet pea tunnel runs through the vegetable beds, complete with windows so you can peer through the sweet peas to see the growing produce and scarecrows. Take a stroll through the tunnel to catch some of the gorgeous sweetpea aromas.

Fruit and veg from Calke's gardens can be purchased from a stall in the back shed. All money raised goes towards keeping Calke's garden growing, which means you're helping to keep Calke Abbey's history alive.

Relaxing in Calke's deck chairs
Deck chairs in Calke garden, Calke Abbey, National Trust, Midlands
Relaxing in Calke's deck chairs

Faded glasshouses and walled gardens

Don’t forget to visit the meadow inside the Walled Garden, where you’ll also find Calke’s Georgian Orangery in all its abandoned glory. Bask in the warmth among tender plantings, and take in the sights and sounds from the walled meadow.

Dating back to 1777, the Orangery is one of the oldest surviving garden buildings and was in a dilapidated state when we began caring for Calke in 1985. The glass dome, added in 1936, needed extensive repairs and we completed vital restoration work in 2003. Flaking paintwork and cracked plaster was left as it was found to reflect the general state of decay that the orangery was found in – much like the rest of Calke.

From the Orangery, wander through to the Peach House to see where we're growing our delicious peaches and nectarines. The annual borders will bursting with flowers from July, a real highlight in the summer.

When you come to enjoy a breath of fresh air, it helps us to breathe life into Calke's historic gardens. Thank you for your support.