Shades of autumn in the gardens at Calke Abbey

Calke Abbey, Midlands, pumpkin and gourds on the auricular theatre

Vibrant colours take over Calke's garden this autumn, as the gardeners harvest an abundance of homegrown fruit and vegetable. Find an autumnal display of pumpkins and gourds in the Flower Garden, watch the harvest in the Physic Garden and take a peaceful stroll through the historic orchard.

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.

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.

Autumn highlights in the Flower Garden

As you enter the walled garden this summer, you'll be greeted by a burst of autumn colour and fragrance in the Flower Garden. The rare surving auricula theatre puts on a vibrant display of homegrown pumpkins, squashes and ornamental gourds, which you can buy for a small donation towards the end of October. It's a must-see display of all shapes and sizes, and a great photo opportunity. 

As you leave the Flower Garden through the bottom gate, you'll enter Central Yard, where a double dahlia bed is planted with over 50 varieties of dahlia, providing a medley of colour all through the autumn. 

The Orchard at Calke Abbey
Calke Abbey, Midlands, the Orchard in autumn
The Orchard at Calke Abbey

Fragrance in the Physic Garden

As you leave Central Yard, wander through the Physic Garden with its abundance of vegetable beds, soft fruits, cut flowers and herbs. Look out for giant pumpkins and a gourd tunnel climing through the veg beds.

Beyond the abundance of vegetable beds, you'll find a small but productive orchard, growing a variety of local and historic apples. Take a seat among the trees to admire them in full fruit, or stroll through the long grass to find the bee hives, buzzing away in the orchard. 

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.

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 grow our delicious peaches and nectarines early in the year. 

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.