A warm September and unremarkable summer could hold the secret to one of the most spectacular autumn colour seasons at Stourhead in Wiltshire.
The National Trust gardeners at Stourhead are hopeful that the trees and shrubs have benefitted from the gentle British summer this year and are set to put on a beautiful display around the lake at Stourhead.
The summer of 2015 didn’t see high temperatures, therefore the trees were never under too much stress. They also received the odd shower of rain which kept them in good health. All of this adds up to a good, stress-free growing season and the trees are approaching the autumn in good condition
Some of the trees which traditionally turn early – the katsuras and maples – are already showing bright autumn colours at Stourhead and the garden team are preparing for five or six weeks of daily collecting leaves.
Due to the sheltered position of the garden, situated in a valley, Stourhead’s trees generally turn slower than other areas, and this means that visitors can experience a slow and gradual change in the garden, offering a new scene if visited repeatedly over the long autumn.
To help visitors who are planning to visit this autumn, Stourhead have once again set up the ‘leafline’. By phoning 01747 841152 visitors planning a trip will be able to hear regularly updated information on the autumn colours in the garden from Alan Power, the National Trust’s head gardener at Stourhead.
Alan said the garden was always at the mercy of the weather but usually produced dramatic results.
‘We are very fortunate that when, 250 years ago, the garden was laid out, they had a vision which allowed the seasons to paint colours and effects across the landscape. There are over 600 species of trees and shrubs so the autumn season here is a long one – often taking six weeks for the colours to wash their way across the trees and views over the garden.
‘We are hoping, with some kind weather, to have another really good year for Autumn colours.’
The vision of the garden was laid down in the 18th century by Henry Hoare II who placed Stourhead at the forefront of the 18th-century English landscape movement. Inspired by the views of Italy captured by artists in paint, he decided to create a landscape garden at Stourhead that would bring art to life.
His work was carried on by his grandson Richard Colt Hoare who added to the garden and developed the current paths also adding many of the newly introduced broadleaved trees and the conifer collection that provides the evergreen backdrop for the spectacular autumn show.
The tree collection reacts to changes in day length and the autumnal drop in temperatures naturally. The changes trigger the trees to absorb food stores in their leaves back into the main structure of the tree. As the leaves begin to ‘die’ on the tree they fade away through a beautiful change in colour.