June has always been a great month for this perennial favourite of the English garden. With the sun shining bright in recent weeks, the seven acres of tranquil grounds in Upper Dicker near Hailsham in East Sussex is the perfect spot to take in the beauty of these classic flowers.
There are at least 15 varieties of roses growing in the grounds of this medieval moated island, which is owned and cared for by The Sussex Archaeological Society. And each one has a special story to tell, which links in with the 800-year history of the special site.
Head Gardener James Neal said: “June is a great month for roses. So far, I have counted 15 varieties at Michelham Priory scattered around the site. We particularly like large rambling roses, which trail beautifully across our historic buildings, creating an incredible smell and haven for wildlife at this time of year.”
Among James’ favourites it the White Rose Rosa Alba Maxima, which can be found in the Cloister Garden.
James explains: “It has been cultivated in Europe since ancient times for its sweet scent. The emblem of the House of York in the War of the Roses. John Gerard the English Herbalist stated in his 1597 Herball that ‘the distilled water of roses is good for the strengthening of the heart and the refreshing of the spirits’.”
Another rose with medieval links – very apt given Michelham’s history and links to the all-powerful Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt – is the Red Rose Rosa Gallica, which is the emblem of the House of Lancaster and can be found in the Physic garden.
James said: “This French rose is a rose of great antiquity and is actually crimson or deep pink rather than pink. It is also known as the Apothecary’s Rose, considered to have many medicinal uses by Pliny and Gerard including the ability ‘to staunch bleedings in any part of the body’.”
Other favourites include the Rosa Mundi Vericolour with white striped pink blooms and named for Fair Rosamund, mistress of Henry II; and Rosa Buff Beauty, an apricot coloured hybrid musk rose cultivar bred by Ann Bentall in 1939 which is ideal for shady areas.
A rose with more modern origins is Rosa Albrighton Rambler, which is a repeat flowering rambler created by the doyen of British rose breeders David Austin.
James said: “Unusually for a rambler, it has double flowers, which are small and cup shaped. They are blush pink fading to blush white with beautifully arranged petals around a button eye. It is named for the village where David Austin’s’ nursery is located. Our one is being trained to grow up an apple tree in our orchard.”
Michelham Priory is open every day this summer from 10.30am to 5pm. Access to the grounds only is £9.50 for adults, £9 for seniors and £4.50 for children. Family tickets start from £15.
There is free parking on site, along with a café serving delicious homemade food and cakes, a shop, revamped children’s playground and shop.
For further details visit: www.sussexpast.co.uk.
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Have you read....: Look around this fine home in Hailsham with extensive grounds and gardens