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TEN OF THE BEST AUTUMNAL GARDENS

Veronica Peerless

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As I'm sure you don't need reminding, summer in Britain can be rather hit and miss. Autumn, however, often brings some of our best weather, and as the leaves turn, it's reliably spectacular too. It's the ideal time to get out outside while you still can and enjoy the fiery colours and mellow light before the world turns grey. You can't go wrong with a trip to an arboretum at this time of year, but some gardens are at their best too, thanks to late-flowering exotics, perennials and grasses plus fruits, berries and hips. Here are some of my favourite autumn places.
Sheffield Park & Garden

This Capability Brown masterpiece is one of the most photographed autumn gardens in Britain, and it's easy to see why. The stunning colours of the Japanese maples, oaks, beech, swamp cypresses and birches are mirrored in the park's five lakes, giving a double hit of colour. On a blue-skied autumn day there's no place like it.

Stourhead

When the North American maple turns scarlet at Stourhead, it heralds the fact that autumn is on its way. Japanese acers, chestnuts, cypress and redwoods soon join the autumnal throng, and their sumptuous colours are reflected in the central lake. As the leaves fall, dramatic vistas open up and you can appreciate the incredibly clever design of this magnificent landscape garden.

Pensthorpe Natural Park

The Millennium Garden, designed by one of the world's best designers, Piet Oudolf, is the main attraction at Pensthorpe. Swathes of tall grasses and late-flowering perennials provide the wow factor well into autumn and then fade and die back gracefully. The garden then takes on a whole new appearance as the forms of the plants and their seedheads come to the fore.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens pull off that rare feat of looking brilliant all year round. The gardens started life as an arboretum and the gardens have the highest number of ‘champion trees' in Britain, many of which give fantastic autumn colour. There's plenty to see around the gardens too, from shrubs such as oak-leafed hydrangeas, rare enkianthus and lipstick-pink nerines.

Thorp Perrow Arboretum

This Yorkshire arboretum is home to some of the largest and most unusual trees and shrubs in Britain. Many of them take on spectacular hues in autumn, and the three ‘autumn bays' are especially worth a visit. You can also take part in ‘fungus forays' – guided tours that will show you which mushrooms are edible and which ones to avoid.

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