Spring gardens at Calke Abbey

Gardens | National Trust Calke Abbey | Derbyshire

There’s nothing quite like the sight and scent of spring flowers to lift your mood. As the winter fades, look out for the first snowdrops popping up in the gardens, followed by vibrant tulips, sweet blossom and unfurling leaves as the weather warms. 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.

Little signs of spring 

Snowdrops are the first signs of spring in the gardens, and a welcome sight after a cold and crisp winter. Look out for these little gems popping up all over the Pleasure Grounds and in the woods surrounding the gardens. 

The snowdrop display on the auricula theatre is a highlight in early spring, with lots of potted snowdrop varities on display. A perfect photo opportunity!

As the weather begins to warm... 

...Calke's gardens beging to awaken, filling the air with fragrance and colour. As you stretch your legs on a peaceful wander through the walled gardens, look out for early crocus, delightful daffodils and grape hyacinth.

Inside the Peach House, nectarines and peaches soak up the spring sunshine, bringing a splash of colour to the glass houses. Outside in the orchard, you'll spot the shy, drooping snakes-head fritillaries under the blossoming apples.

As the weather warms through April, the borders become a medley of colour to brighten your spirits, spilling with tulips, wallflowers and forget-me-nots. Look out for a waterfall of wisteria, which blooms around May time – a must-see in spring. 

Pops of pink nectarine blossom in the Peach House
Nectarine blossom in the Glass House | National Trust Calke Abbey | Derbyshire
Pops of pink nectarine blossom in the Peach House

Potted auriculas decorate the theatre

A highlight in Calke’s gardens is the rare, surviving auricula theatre. In April, the theatre will be adorned with its namesake – a stunning display of potted auriculas, which are a must-see.

Throughout the year, the gardeners are busy bees creating seasonal displays for the theatre, including snowdrops and daffodils in early spring, pelargoniums in summer, and a vibrant pumpkin display in autumn. 

Inside the Orangery

A perfect haven for relaxation is the Orangery, where you can sit back and enjoy a few moments of peace in our deckchairs, scattered among tropical plants and flowers.

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.

The Orangery is now home to some slightly tender plants, predominantly from a Mediterranean climate, which need a bit of protection from the Derbyshire winters!

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.

Find a bit of greenery in Calke's glass houses
Glass Houses | National Trust Calke Abbey | Derbyshire
Find a bit of greenery in Calke's glass houses