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Visit Michelham Priory House & Gardens for a Blaze of Autumn Colour

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Visitors to Michelham Priory House & Gardens this September and October will be treated to vibrant autumnal displays of reds, oranges and yellows as they take in the scheduled monument’s gardens, which date back to 1229 and are encircled by the country’s largest moat.

Head Gardener James Neal says the trees are one of the gardens’ biggest draws in autumn: “Our Liquid Amber trees with their star-shaped leaves offer brilliant autumn colour, with bright hues of red, orange and yellow. Our Tulip trees have buttery, yellow leaves, while the Ironwood tree, or Parrotia persica, brings contrast with its deep shapes of scarlet and purple. Our Acer trees also turn a beautiful red-orange shade in autumn.

“A tree our visitors love to experience is our Hollow Oak, which is at least 500 years old, and is so hollow that you can poke your head inside and look up to the sky!”

Flower lovers will also have something to look forward to. “Our dahlias will continue to bloom until the first frost. We have a display of red, orange and cream-coloured dahlias, interplanted with verbena, and another display of daisy-like single dahlias in vibrant shades of purple, crimson and orange,” says James.

“Herbaceous perennials like Aster and the bright yellow Rudbeckia will also be on display. The Vegetable Garden will be in full swing and much of the harvested produce will make its way into our café, where the menu changes depending on the seasons.”

The Physic Garden and Cloister Garden offer visitors a chance to step back in time and experience what a medieval garden would have been like. “We research carefully and grow plants that would have been available at the time. Perhaps surprisingly, this includes an almond tree in the Cloister Garden! There are also plenty of vines that will be ripening this autumn, as grapes grew well in the slightly warmer climate of the early medieval era,” explains James.

“The Physic Garden is full of herbs that would have been used for medicinal purposes. We often grow slightly obscure herbs, as people in the medieval era would have brought herbs home from the hedgerows to plant in their own gardens. We grow plantain which was used according to the theory of the Doctrine of Signatures, people essentially believed that they could derive the characteristics of a plant by using it. Because plantain is so hardy that it could be run over by a wagon wheel without losing its shape, people used it in the hope that it would make them hardier!”

Michelham Priory House & Gardens is open every day from 10.30am – 5pm until 1 November, when it will be open from 11am – 4pm. Advance tickets, bookable online, start at £9.70 for an adult, £4.65 for a child or student, £8.80 for a senior, £25 for a family with two adults and up to four children, and £14.40 for a family with one adult. Tickets to the grounds only are also available.

Michelham Priory House & Gardens is one of the seven Sussex Past historical sites opened to the public by the Sussex Archaeological Society. A standard membership to the Society costs £40 and grants unlimited access to the sites as well as half-price entry to all English Heritage sites in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire. Different membership options are available, including for students and families.

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