Where to see stunning autumn colours in Hertfordshire
- Credit: Archant
Nature’s stunning display of vibrant colour is upon us as trees change into their dazzling autumn mantle. Philippa Pearson discovers the best places in Hertfordshire to see autumn colour and top trees for your own garden
West Lodge Park, Hadley Wood
Trees that give year-round interest from shape, bark and foliage to flowers and fruit make a great focal point in the garden. If you have room, plant several different specimens together and include trees that give dramatic autumn colour. Maples tick this box – their attractively-shaped leaves turn fiery shades of crimson and red in the last months of the year. Good maples to try in smaller gardens include Acer griseum ‘Paper bark maple’, which has peeling cinnamon coloured bark, while Acer davidii ‘Snake bark maple’, has attractive green and white striped bark.
Acers are key players in the autumn display at the Beale Arboretum at West Lodge Park in Hadley Wood. Set in parkland around the country house hotel, the arboretum was established in 1963 by Edward Beale. He had a passion for trees and was encouraged to add to the existing tree collection by Derek Honour, who was trees advisor to the then Greater London Council, and Frank Knight, former director of RHS Wisley garden. There are more than 800 trees in the collection, which is situated in 35 acres of woodland and grounds, and includes the National Plant Collections of hornbeams, carpinus betulus, and swamp cypress taxodium distichum as well as many species of trees from around the world. There’s also a pinetum with a collection of different conifers including some rare and unusual specimens.
The London clay soil suits hornbeam and their leaves look stunning as they take on autumnal hues. Another must-see for seasonal colour at the arboretum are liquidambar styraciflua or ‘Sweet gum tree’, which has spectacular rich crimson leaf colour and corky bark. Look out for the stunning huge liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’ by the front of the hotel. Rich red foliage also comes from two North American trees, the red oak quercus rubra and scarlet oak quercus coccinea, while the mountain ash and rowan have brilliant red berries as well as colourful leaves. Over the past few years, some areas of the arboretum and woodland shrubbery borders have been renovated, with some older shrubs removed and areas replanted. This includes new plantings of various cornus dogwoods, and plants in this area are now maturing well. Dogwoods have excellent autumn foliage colour as well as interesting stems, and the collection includes many unusual species.
Myddelton House, Bulls Cross
The gardens at Myddelton House at Bulls Cross in the Lee Valley Regional Park were created in the 19th century, but owe the present layout to horticulturalist, plantsman and garden writer E.A. Bowles who transformed them in the early 20th century. Bowles lived at Myddelton House from 1865-1954 and dedicated much of his life to recreating the gardens with his love of unusual and exotic plants. The gardens have recently been restored, reopening in spring 2011, following a two-year Heritage Lottery Fund enabled project. Enjoy the arboretum in depths of autumn and take time to visit the restored areas in other parts of the garden too.
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Capel Manor, Enfield
Nearby to Myddelton House, the 30-acre estate at Capel Manor, which dates to the late 13th century, has a magnificent display of autumn colour. As well as a woodland walk, visitors can enjoy autumn colour in many of the themed gardens on the site which offer lots of planting ideas for smaller garden spaces.
Falconer Road, Bushey
For something completely different, there’s a night-time November garden opening in Bushey where a small 140ft garden has thousands of tiny lights sparkling and twinkling in every space. This enchanting garden is packed full of plants and features and is an absolutely charming and inspiring space.
Five garden trees for autumn display
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii
The Himalayan birch has dazzling-white bark all year round, long catkins in spring and the deep green foliage turns buttery yellow in autumn. Height: 18m.
Cornus kousa var. chinensis
The spreading branches have showy white bracts in early summer and stunning orange, bronze and crimson foliage in autumn. Height: 6m.
Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia Splendens’
Large glossy leaves turn brilliant orange-red in autumn. White flowers in spring are followed by scarlet red fruits lasting through autumn. Height 10m
Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’
The glossy star-shaped leaves of the sweet gum tree turn a vibrant red and scarlet in autumn. Height: 25m.
One of the best crab apples for spring blossom followed by red-orange-yellow fruit and good autumn foliage colour. Height: 7m.
Visit an autumn garden
The Beale Arboretum
West Lodge Park
Hadley Wood EN4 0PY
020 8216 3900
The arboretum is usually open from 2-5pm Mon-Fri. A small admission charge payable at reception. Check opening times before travelling.
Myddelton House Gardens
Enfield EN2 9HG
03000 030 610
Open 10am-dusk daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Capel Manor Gardens
Enfield EN1 4RQ
Open Nov-Feb weekdays only, 10am-5pm. Last ticket 3.30pm. Closed Christmas Day to New Year.
42 Falconer Road
Bushey WD23 3AD
Open for the National Garden Scheme, Sat Nov 5, 4-8pm. Admission £3, children free. Light refreshments available.