June has always been a great month for this English garden staple. With glorious sunshine over the last few weeks, the seven acres of tranquil grounds at Upper Dicker near Hailsham in East Sussex are the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of these classic flowers.
At least 15 varieties of roses grow on the grounds of this medieval water island, which is owned and cared for by the Sussex Archaeological Society. And each one has a special story to tell that ties in with the 800-year history of the special place.
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 especially like large climbing roses that beautifully drape over our historic buildings, creating an incredible scent and sanctuary for wildlife at this time of year.”
One of James’ favorites is the White Rose, Rosa Alba Maxima, which can be found in the monastery garden.
James explains: “It has been cultivated in Europe since ancient times for its sweet fragrance. The emblem of the House of York in the War of the Roses. John Gerard, the English herbalist, stated in his 1597 Herbal that “the distilled rose water is good for strengthening the heart and refreshing the soul”.
Another rose with medieval connections – very fitting given Michelham’s history and connections to the almighty Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt – is the red rose Rosa Gallica, the emblem of House Lancaster and 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. Also known as the Apothecary’s Rose, it is credited by Pliny and Gerard with many medicinal uses, including the ability to “stop bleeding in any part of the body.”
Other favorites include the Rosa Mundi Vericolour, with white striped pink flowers and named after Fair Rosamund, mistress of Henry II; and Rosa Buff Beauty, an apricot-colored hybrid musk rose variety bred by Ann Bentall in 1939 and ideal for shady areas.
A rose with more modern origins is Rosa Albrighton Rambler, a multiflowering rambler created by British rose breeder doyen David Austin.
James said: “Unusually for a wanderer, it has double flowers that are small and cup-shaped. They are pink fading to white with beautifully arranged petals around a button eye. It is named after the village where David Austin’s Kindergarten is located. Ours is being trained to grow an apple tree in our orchard.”
Michelham Priory is open daily from 10.30am to 5pm this summer. Access to the site costs just £9.50 for adults, £9 for seniors and £4.50 for children. Family tickets are available from £15.
There is free on-site parking, along with a cafe serving delicious home-cooked food and cakes, a shop, a newly designed children’s playground and shop.