Spectacular autumn season predicted

National Trust offers hope of a fantastic autumn display, urging Britons to enjoy the spectacle.

Stourhead gardens

According to Andy Jasper, Head of Gardens and Parklands at the National Trust, this year’s wet summer helped “buck the trend of recent dry summers” enabling plants and trees to hydrate sufficiently for a dazzling show of reds, ambers, yellows and browns this autumn.

The autumn spectacle is set to start in Scotland, where temperatures typically drop the fastest, followed by the North East of England and Northern Ireland with a domino effect cascading down the rest of England and Wales through to the South West.

John Lanyon, Head Gardener for the National Trust at Glendurgan said: “We have really high hopes for a spectacular autumn display which will make up for last year’s poor season. In 2022 the lack of rain and high temperatures firstly put our trees under huge stress before we experienced strong gales which blew the leaves off before they had chance to turn. This year however, the summer rains have played a significant part in helping our trees recover somewhat, giving the trees the strength to hold on to their leaves which should result in a fantastic autumn display”.

The change of leaf colour is triggered by a slowing down of the production of chlorophyl – the green energy creating pigment which gives leaves their colour – as days shorten, resulting in lower levels of sunlight, and as temperatures drop. This allows other underlying pigments to become increasingly dominant resulting in the kaleidoscope of autumnal colours from brilliant butter yellows, ambers and crimsons, through to rich, russet browns.

Gardeners and rangers across the country remain anxious as to the ongoing legacy of the past years’ extreme weather, in particular the impact of last year’s drought and dry winter may result in the trees showing signs of stress in different ways. Luke Barley, National Trees & Woodland Adviser at the National Trust said: “Trees and woodlands can be remarkably resilient – but we are seeing trees showing various signs of stress due to successive years of drought and increasingly warm winters, which fail to kill off some of the insect pests that can affect native trees. Trees that are already stressed by drought are particularly susceptible to diseases, for instance parkland oaks that we find affected by Acute Oak Decline. We also know that mature trees with thin crowns and declining vigour are potentially less able to resist pathogens”.

The prolonged period of atypical weather and the impact on both young and mature trees, remains a big concern. “It’s therefore vitally important that we really start to understand the impact climate change is having on some of the ‘giants’ in our landscapes, and to really appreciate them for providing us with clean air and water, how they provide homes for thousands of insects, birds and other animals – not to mention the effect that time among the trees can have on our own physical and mental wellbeing”, added Barley.

Recommended autumn highlights, include;

  • Stourhead in Wiltshire and Glendurgan in Cornwall for a show-stopping, North American style autumn with flame red cypresses, golden yellow tulip trees and pink red dogwoods.
  • Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, or Sheffield Park & Garden in Sussex offer vibrant reds of Japanese acer maples with a sea of autumnal colour reflected in the lakes.
  • Bradenham woods in the Chilterns, walkers can expected swathes of amber glinting in the sunlight in the beech woodland
  • Cragside in Northumberland offer views from the bridge and valley walks for a truly immersed autumn experiences
  • Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire offers a more typical ‘British autumn’, with rich, rusty browns of the oak arboretum
  • Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, visitors can gaze up at the autumn skies through the orange, yellow, and golden-brown canopy of one of the largest cut-leaf beech trees in the country.