Historic Gardens

ENGLISH HERITAGE GARDENS IN AUTUMN

As the weather cools, our gardens transition into a vibrant autumnal colour palette of yellow, orange and brown. Keep cosy and enjoy wandering through our historic gardens where you'll discover the stories behind our leafy woodlands, decorative flower beds and seasonal kitchen produce.

Here's our pick of the most impressive gardens of the season. 

Audley in autumn

1. Audley End

Pull on your jacket and pack your umbrella (just in case) and witness the seasonal changes at one of our most beautiful gardens. See ripening apples in the Kitchen Gardens, stately cedars in the parkland and catch the last of the display of flowers across the estate. 

Explore the pond garden and parterre which will be alive with colour through the autumn until the first frost beckons the start of the bedding turnover. Near the parterre, look out for the Kentucky coffee trees, the Howard oak (Quercus x audleyensis, one of only two in the world) and the avenue of limes. 

Our gardeners are particularly busy in Audley's Kitchen Garden, harvesting apples and pears and several varieties of vegetables including beetroot, lettuce, chard, beans, courgettes and squashes. All plants in this area are cared for in keeping with those grown and used in the house in the 1880s.

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Autumn colours at Belsay

2. Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens

Belsay is looking like an autumnal paradise.

As you walk through the garden, soak up the beautiful seasonal changes including Acer trees, vines, Persian ironwood trees (Parrotia persica) and tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The majestic Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is always a striking feature because of its magnificent colours and scent of candy floss. 

You might even be fortunate enough to spot one of our red squirrels as it prepares for winter - do let us know if you see one, they can be very elusive.

New for this year is our major restoration project which is currently taking place within the formal gardens. Ask our on-site gardeners to find out more about the exciting planting schemes, which have been produced by acclaimed designer and plantsman Dan Pearson.

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Brodsworth House among the autumn gardens

3. Brodsworth Hall

Brodsworth gardens are for all seasons, however Autumn is an especially exciting time of year. Through the Beech Lawns you can admire the autumn crocuses that are popping up now that they have had their cut for the year. And as the sun lowers in the sky, its rays gently filter through the Beech trees to highlight the colour of the leaves.

The Fern Dell explodes with autumnal colour as the 44 different shades of green of the decidious ferns breakdown. Euonymus alatus, also known as ‘Burning bush’ are dotted around the gardens. They're native to China, Japan and Korea and turn bright red in autumn. 

A wander through the Rose Dell will delight as it comes to life in autumn. Here our gardeners have allowed the shrub roses to form hips which provide food for the birds while adding a pop of bright colour in autumnal shades of bright red and orange.

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Down House covered in autumn vines

4. Home of Charles Darwin (Down House)

During the autumn look out for the stunning scarlet red Virginia creeper that engulfs Down House, contrasting with the purple tones of the Boston ivy. The view from the sandwalk (with its veteran beech trees planted by Darwin) across the valley to 'The Big Woods' is also unmissable at this time of year. 

The main highlight at Down is the spectacular Autumn colour in the valley across from Great Pucklands’ Meadow, a place beloved by Darwin and his family. 

Depending on the weather, the fungi field can provide another flush including pink waxcaps - the rarest waxcap of them all.

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Autumn trees surrounding Walmer Castle

5. WALMER CASTLE

From a Tudor fortress to an award-winning modern-day delight, Walmer Castle offers eight acres of garden and woodland.

The deciduous trees throughout the grounds offer impressive autumnal colour. The flowering cherries will present bright red colours, while the sycamores will turn yellow in beautiful contrast. Make sure you bring your walking shoes because now is the perfect time for a stroll through the woodland walk, which is already covered in beautiful cyclamen and Colchicum.

In the Victorian glasshouse you will see a display of large foilage plants as well as a particularly unusual climber, Canarina canariensis. This orange bell-shaped flower is dormant in the summer and only just shooting up again for the autumn and winter. Meanwhile in the Glen you can enjoy the evergreen ferns and elm trees with their golden hues.

We will also be clipping the yew cloud hedges throughout the season, which is an interesting sight due to its height and the technicalities involved in keeping them trim.

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Copper-coloured leaves in front of Kenwood

6. Kenwood

Enjoy this beautiful landscaped parkland, close to the centre of London, and admire some 6000 trees. Take a walk and enjoy this annual highlight, which provides a rich, visual spectacle each autumn. 

Our gardeners will be planting rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs in the flower garden so you can see the progress over the coming months. 

In the kitchen garden, look out for the red leaves of the Vitis coignetiae scrambling along the shed roof and into the Plane Tree. Here you can also admire the firey Acer palmatum trees.  

As you walk around the Pasture Ground, look out for the sweet gum with its vibrant tinges of purples, yellows and oranges in its leaves. Another charming feature is the Virginia creepers that elegantly climb along the front of Mansions Cottage.

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Swiss Cottage at Osborne in the autumn

7. Osborne

Many of the best trees for autumn colour at Osborne can be found to the north of the walled garden. Near Swiss Cottage (right), the small house the royal children played in, see the leaves of the Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) turning orangey-red and the Tulip Tree, (Liriodendron tulipifera), turn a buttery yellow. It's enough to get out your paint brush and canvas and paint the picture-perfect views like Victoria did when she stayed.

With the cooler, damper weather, the lawns are already sprouting a range of different fungi, creating an enchanting spotters-guide for visitors. Most of these grassland fungi are small, but brightly coloured, so you need to keep your eyes open to see them.

Look out for striking colour among the flowers like the herbaceous borders outside the walled garden and on the outside of the terraces. Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and Symphyotrichum novae-belgii), for example, start to flower in late September and carry on until mid-October, later if the weather remains mild.

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Autumn leaves frame Witley Court

8. Witley Court

The dramatic ruin of Witley Court is no better complemented than by the colours of autumn in the expansive gardens. It was here that the Victorians would come to celebrate at one of the famous parties the site became known for. 

A favourite view is the early morning vista over the grounds, with looming mist casting a dewy blanket across the lake. This is supported by hues of yellow, orange and bronze in the leaves and berries of Liquidambar, Sorbus, Euonymus and Viburnum

By October and November the Woodland walks will throw shades of burnt oranges providing a quintessential autumnal experience. Why not bring your dog along for an autumn stroll and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful surrounds

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Top 5 Things to Look Out For This Autumn

  1. Red squirrels at Belsay - Red squirrels have returned after an absence of a few years. See if you can spot one!
  2. Colourful creepers at Down House - The scarlet red Virginia creeper that wraps itself around Down House contrasts with the purple tones of the Boston ivy.
  3. Yew cloud hedges at Walmer - Watch our skilled gardeners tend to these magnificent hedges throughout the autumn.
  4. Enchanting fungi at Osborne - By mid-September fungi start appearing across the whole estate (pictured), but are often best viewed in the lawn areas. Keep your eyes open but watch your step! Some of these fungi are edible but most aren’t and some are deadly poisonous so please don’t touch.
  5. Mists across the lake at Witley - If you're early on a crisp morning you might catch a glimpse of the autumn mist casting a blanket across the lake. A favourite among our visitors.
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