Historic Gardens

9 Spectacular Autumn Gardens

We may be waving goodbye to the long summer days, but there's a very good reason to embrace the cool, crisp weather. Autumn is the season which brings a riot of breathtaking colour across our gardens.

To inspire you, here's some of the colourful highlights on offer (just make sure you wrap up warm)….

1. Audley End

Many of the hauntingly beautiful trees at Audley End House and Gardens in Essex were planted in the late 18th century. They are ablaze with rich colour in the autumn.

On the north lawn there are numerous London plane trees, tulip trees, oaks, and the showy sweet gum on display. Near the Parterre, the Kentucky coffee trees, the Howard oak (one of only two in the world), and the avenue of limes are a sight to behold.

The Kitchen Garden also includes a wide range of fruit and vegetables, including 120 apple trees and 40 to 50 pear and plum varieties, as well as various other herbs, flowers and grasses in keeping with those grown and used in the house around 1880.

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2. Belsay Hall

Deep autumnal hues of red, russet and yellow surround the trees at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens.

The entrance to the Quarry Garden is enchanting, with white-barked Himalayan birches and red-leaved Euonymus. At this time of year the aptly-named Winter Garden comes into its own, with its unusual shapes and textures and winter-flowering pink and white heathers.

A planting of large Aralia give colour along the fern walk, opening to the Meadow Area where you're surrounded by magnificent specimens of Persian ironwood which turn red, yellow and purple in autumn. In late summer and early autumn there's also the unique and evocative scent of burnt sugar filling the air from the Japanese Katsura Tree.

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3. Brodsworth Hall

Late autumn is a glorious time to visit Brodsworth Hall and Gardens for its fine collection of ornamental trees displaying their bright hues and over 100 varieties of holly bush. The holly berries from these provide a grand feast for 150 species of bird which the RSPB have recorded in the garden, helping to prepare them up for the long winter ahead.

Brodsworth also boasts several fine examples of Acer, which are at their best at this time of year - their rich autumn-leaf colour showing up brilliantly against the backdrop of the darker clipped evergreens.

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4. Home of Charles Darwin (Down House)

During the autumn, a stunning scarlet red Virginia creeper engulfs Down House, contrasting gorgeously with the purple tones of the Boston ivy.

The estate also boasts the so-called 'thinking path' which Mr Charles Darwin himself used to regularly traverse when seeking a little inspiration.

The view from the Sand Walk (with its veteran beech trees planted by Darwin) across the valley to 'The Big Woods', is also unmissable at this time of year.

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5. Eltham Palace

The gardens at Eltham Palace provide a fiery farewell to summer with wonderful autumn colour provided by the trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders.

The Manchurian cherry trees, with bark that glows orange, line the drive to the car park.

In the parkland, the sweet gum tree is the star, an elegant cone with deep scarlet leaves. Nearby is the ornamental hawthorn Prunifolia with huge scarlet fruit shiny among the mat crimson leaves. Asters also provide colour and texture from their flowers and foliage in the long herbaceous borders. 

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6. Kenwood

This beautiful landscaped parkland, close to the centre of London, is home to 6,000 trees which provide a rich, visual spectacle each Autumn.

Look out for the sweet gum located on the Pasture Ground near Stone Bridge which has the most amazing tinges of purples, yellows and oranges in their leaves.

Walk further east keeping Wood Pond on your right hand side, and you will pass another autumn star - the Persian ironwood.

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7. Osborne

The soft, coastal light of autumn simply enhances the beauty of the natural and historic landscape at Osborne.

The trees are of particular interest with colour lasting until the end of the year - don't miss the Persian ironwood and the sweet gum in the Pleasure Grounds.

The harvest of historic varieties of fruit and vegetables (including apples, quince and pumpkins) from both the children's gardens at Swiss Cottage and from the Walled Garden are on display, showing Victorian 'tastes' at their most bountiful.

Visiting in October, November and December gives you a chance to see some rare and unusual species of fungi, which are quite spectacular.

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8. Witley Court

Perhaps the most evocative sight of this season is the palatial ruins of Witley Court looming out of the mist on early autumn mornings - but its natural surroundings are well worth exploring too.

The Wilderness Garden is home to a variety of trees and shrubs including a prolific population of poisonous red and white toadstools - more properly known as fly agaric fungus.

Hues of yellow, orange, red and bronze emerge from the sweet chestnuts, birches, field maples and several oaks including some American species. Plus you can't miss the Cornus with their bright red stems and Euonymus with their striking pink and orange seeds. 

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9. Wrest Park

Wrest Park's 92 acres of formal gardens provide a fascinating history of gardening styles, laid out over 150 years and inspired by the great gardens of Versailles in France.

One of the best locations in autumn is the Meadow to the north of Chinese Bridge. Hydrangeas, kaffir lilies and autumn flowering bulbs such as the exotic- looking Nerine provide a welcome splash of colour.

Look out for the fruit trees in the Walled Garden too, which produce several varieties of apples, pears and plums. 

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