UK gardens to visit for autumn colour

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Gardens to visit for autumn colour
Where to find out more about gardens with autumn colour
Autumn leaves- in England
Autumn leaves – in Scotland
Autumn leaves – in Wales and Northern Ireland
Floriferous autumn colour – in England
Floriferous autumn displays – more in England
Floriferous autumn colour – even more in England
Floriferous autumn colour – in Northern Ireland
Floriferous autumn colour – in Scotland

Gardens to visit for autumn colour

When autumn approaches, it means that once more we can enjoy the gloriously warm colours of leaves and berries, and not just in our own gardens but in the many that are still open to the public.

Yes, there are still plenty to visit in autumn, often boasting floriferous displays too. For this is the time of year when heathers, Michaelmas daisies, dainty woodland cyclamen, autumn crocus, nerines, sedum and Japanese anemone come into their own to brighten up corners of the garden. While you may have room for one or two of these in your own plot, they make spectacular displays when grown en masse and are worth seeking out.

Of the shrubs and trees, there are several that have reliable autumn colour, with others contributing to the show only if there’s been the right amount of frost. The richness of azalea leaves, and those of the maples, along with certain cherries and apples, viewed in the low rays of the sun, is one of the delights of this season.

Silver birch - autumn colour

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Where to find out more about gardens with autumn colour

With so many gardens around Britain, there’s bound to be something nearby. So where to find all this splendour?

We recommend that you dip into the guidebooks, or peruse the leaflets at tourist information centres and campsite offices, and talk to those with local knowledge. Then you can be guaranteed to find plenty of beautiful places to aim for during the autumn months.

Some answers will be in the garden visitors’ bible, universally referred to as the Yellow Book – the directory of gardens open for charity (published every February).

There’s a yellow book for England and Wales, and another for Scotland, listing gardens that are often private domestic ones open only a few times a year.

For those gardens always open to the public, try looking at the National Trust website, The Good Gardens Guide (full of information by independent inspectors), and the online guides that also have accommodation details (Great British Gardens and Information Britain

For national collections in the UK, look at those listed by The National Council for the Conservation of Plants.

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Autumn leaves- in England

If you’re in Gloucestershire at the right time, then head for Westonbirt Arboretum, near Tetbury. Renowned for its mature specimens of trees, this Forestry Commission-owned arboretum has grouped plantings of Japanese maples and others to show off their effect to the best. There are 17 miles of paths here, highly suitable for the children to let off steam, but dogs can only be taken to certain areas. With a cafe open every month but January, a picnic area, all-year opening hours and grounds accessible to wheelchairs, this is a good venue for a family trip.

A National Trust property in East Sussex vies with Westonbirt for its autumn colour. Scarlet, orange, yellow and purple hues are provided by a range of beautiful trees set around lakes and cascades at Sheffield Park Garden, near Uckfield. Plenty of space for the children, but dogs are restricted to the car park. Most of the grounds are wheelchair accessible, and there are a limited number of wheelchairs, all-terrain pushchairs, back carriers and self-drive cars if you need help to move yourself or your companions around.

Another site for sore eyes is at Stourhead, near Warminster in Wiltshire. Here the National Trust looks after a wide range of trees that obligingly put on a splendid display at this time of year. As do the mature specimens at Osterley Park, on the western side of London. Both places are open all year, are large enough for children to run around, have wheelchairs available, and a tea room for reviving refreshments.

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Autumn leaves – in Scotland

Scottish gardens with autumn colour abound, including the outstanding Crarae Garden near Iverary, Argyll & Bute, where the mixture of maples, mountain ash, tulip trees, cherries, cotoneaster and berberis combine in a stunning display between cascading streams. 

Another in this area, near Oban, is wooded Achnacloich, which boasts two water gardens and fine views of Loch Etive and the mountains as a bonus. But this is only open until the end of the season ie October 31st.

In Aberdeenshire, the place to visit is Kildrummy Castle Gardens near Alford, but again you’ll have to visit soon, before it closes for the season. A garden in a deep ravine, it boasts a genuine Japanese garden and beautiful maples, plus a play area for children.

In Coldstream, Berwickshire, there’s The Hirsel (scroll down to find details on ‘walks’), where the grounds not only supply autumn colour from the many trees and shrubs, but interest for bird-watchers too. Here, many waterfowl commute back to the grounds and its lake during autumn and winter evenings.

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Autumn leaves – in Wales and Northern Ireland

In North Wales, the Trust’s Bodnant Garden is open just into November for viewing its magnificent display of colourful trees. Grown around and within a deep ravine, the mixture of bark, leaves and berries combine to impress.

Over the water at Florence Court in Co. Fermanagh, autumn colours are provided by many shrubs and trees, including azaleas, viburnums, maples and cherries.

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Floriferous autumn colour – in England

More interested in flowers?

Then track down the national collections of Michaelmas daisies (Asters) and their relatives, which put on a grand show from August ’til October. The National Trust have a collection at Upton House, nr Banbury, Oxon, with 104 different types to gaze upon. Within the rose garden of Temple Newsam public park in Leeds there are 159 different types, and not to be outdone, there are at least 260 variations in Picton Garden, near Malvern, Worcestershire. Here, many of these colourful plants are on sale, so you can bring back a souvenir for your garden.

Wakehurst Place in West Sussex also offers Asters along with Sedum, and the pink poker flowers of bistort in the water gardens. The national collection of birches adds to the colour.

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Floriferous autumn displays – more in England

Autumn crocuses push up their flowers now, with the leaves delayed until the spring, so they need the support of surrounding grass to hold up their head. Look out for them at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley, Sussex, where Cyclamen also flourish. Wisley is also on form during winter, with plenty of flowers to delight the eye. Butter-yellow winter aconites cheer the dullest day, and there are even Iris in flower, with snowdrops to follow.

Down in Devon, at Knightshayes Court, the sheets of Cyclamen are followed by the dusky nodding flowers of Helleborus.

In Cambridge, there’s the University’s Botanic Gardens, where a superb Winter Garden provides a large splash of colour. It’s an eye-opener, packed with unusual shrubs flaunting their pure white or brightly coloured barks, and plenty of winter flowers carpeting the ground. Enjoy the mixture of green and golden conifers, plus plenty of winter-flowering heathers and hellebores, and be sure to have a notebook to hand to jot down names. You’re bound to want to reproduce a part of this display in your garden.

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Floriferous autumn colour – even more in England

If the colourful stems and foliage of dogwood on display in Cambridge took your eye, then try a national collection for size. One is at Newby Hall & Gardens, Ripon, Yorkshire, where 80 types are grown. But remember that the gardens close at the end of September.

Near Coventry, Garden Organic at Ryton have colour all year through, with a playground and willow sculptures to amuse the children. Also with children of any age in mind, there have been pumpkin carving events at the end of October at The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum in Hampshire. For the adults, there’s a Winter Garden, as there is further north at Wallington in Northumberland.

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Floriferous autumn colour – in Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, at Rowallane Garden, near Ballynahinch, Co. Down, the garden and grounds are planted to delight visitors at any time of year.

In addition to the many trees and shrubs with colourful berries, bark and leaves, there’s the national collection of Penstemon (which are rather like miniature foxgloves), plus autumn crocuses and ornamental grasses with delicate flowerheads – all to be found within the walled garden.

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Floriferous autumn colour – in Scotland

And in Scotland, Bell’s Cherrybank Gardens in Perth boasts over 830 varieties of heather surrounding commercial office buildings. However, although the garden still exists, it was closed to the public a few years ago and would appear to not be maintained, if this local press report is accurate.

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