Gardens Illustrated
Autumn garden

The best autumn gardens to visit

Published: September 30, 2020 at 12:00 am

Where can you enjoy a really magnificent autumn display? Here are our recommended gardens to visit to see the season at its best

Although it's clear that winter is coming, fiery autumn garden displays seem like a celebratory last hurrah of colour before the dark truly settles in. Take the opportunity to get outside and see the amazing cornucopia of colourful foliage for yourself – here a list of the best autumn gardens in the UK to visit.
Always check with the autumn garden's website before you travel. Most places are accepting visitors now, but you usually need to book your autumn garden visit in advance.
Don't miss our piece on the best autumn trees for your garden.

Sheffield Park Garden

A 'Capability' Brown and Humphry Repton landscape, admirably planted in 1905 by Arthur Soames with a fine collection of trees. Head for the lake and walk the circuit to view the blazing colours reflected in the water. An autumn garden with spectacular Nyssa sylvatica plantings. Near Haywards Heath, East Sussex TN22 3QX


Hergest Croft

Private tree collection established by three generations of enthusiasts, which includes a maple glade and fine selection of mountain ash (Sorbus), offering both leaf colour and bright fruits. In this autumn garden you must find time to take a walk up to Hergest Ridge for some magnificent view down on to the tree-filled garden. Near Kington, Herefordshire HR5 3EG


Exbury Gardens

Planted in 1919 by Lionel de Rothschild, Exbury Gardens offer the best of the old – with some exciting new developments, which keep the gardens’ appeal growing. The Viburnumand Cotoneaster are particularly fine in this autumn garden. Wander through glades down to the Beaulieu River for some fine waterside views. Watch our virtual garden tour of Exbury here. Exbury, near Southampton, Hampshire SO45 1AZ


Knoll Gardens

After all those big gardens with sweeping drives, Knoll Gardens is refreshingly intimate. Known for its grasses, which will be looking their best in autumn, nurseryman Neil Lucas is also establishing a fine collection of woody plants, in particular Euonymus. A great autumn garden to visit to find ideas for your own. Hampreston, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7ND


The Savill Garden

Pools, lakes and streams punctuate this impressive woodland garden along with its late-flowering herbaceous borders, shrubs such as Enkianthus and colourful climbers and vines. The Mahonia and Hydrangea collections are well worth seeking out in this autumn garden, too. Englefield Green, Surrey TW20 0UU


Castle Howard

Planted as recently as the 1960s, Ray Wood, in the grounds of this historic house, is a fine example of a woodland garden. Created by Jim Russell to allow for artistic rides and glades, it includes Pieris, wild roses, rare magnolias, hydrangeas, viburnums, maples and rowans, all providing a feast of autumn garden interest. Near Malton, York YO60 7DA


Winkworth Arboretum

Beautiful wooded hillside, known for its white beam and mountain ash (Sorbus) – Winkworth is also notable for the mass effect of its varied trees, including Parrotia, katsuras, oaks and wonderful Prunus sargentii. Near Godalming, Surrey GU8 4AD


The National Arboretum, Westonbirt

This is Britain’s oldest arboretum, started in 1829 by collector Robert Holford, and now administered by the Forestry Commission as a national gem for all. There’s a huge amount to see here and the wide, long drives allow for good viewing of the trees in autumn. There are three maple glades, which are always a draw in an autumn garden, while its also worth noting the hickories (Carrya species) with their large, rich, golden yellow leaves. Near Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8QS


The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum

You’ll find some 42,000 plants here – quite amazing to think that in 1953 it was just bare fields. As well as oaks, liquidambars, taxodiums and metasequoias, there is a fine winter garden, which starts to come into its own in autumn with ornamental grasses and bergenias. Ampfield, Romsey, Hampshire SO51 0QA


RHS Garden Wisley

There’s so much here to enjoy in autumn, from the blast of colour from trees and shrubs, such as Berberis sieboldii, to the late-summer planting of the borders designed by Tom Stuart-Smith and Piet Oudolf. Don’t forget to wander up Battleston Hill to see the Hydrangea paniculata plantings, and the trial grounds will still hold interest, too. Woking GU23 6QB.


The Minack Theatre

Although best known for its spectacular open-air theatre, the Minack Theatre and Garden is home to a wonderful subtropical garden that is a dramatic attraction of an autumn garden in itself. Full of exotic plants, many of them mature, the gardens showcase agaves, aeoniums, strelitzia and echiums across the clifftop site. Niall and Jill Milligan have orchestrated this planting scheme, so it displays many plants that most of us can only dream of cultivating in our own gardens. Porthcurno, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6JU. Tel 01736 810181,


Marks Hall

The walled garden at Marks Hall is unusual in that it is walled on only three sides, with one aspect sloping down to a lake. Formal hornbeam hedges divide a modern planting style, laid out in a series of spaces with a common thread and flavour throughout. Simple but wonderfully effective plant combinations give a rhythm and an immersive experience as you wander through perennial-based planting – laid out by the London-based, German designer Brita von Schoenaich. Beyond the three walls is a wonderful arboretum. Well worth a visit to this autumn garden. Read our focus on the Marks Hall garden here. Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, Coggeshall, Colchester, Essex CO6 1TG. Tel 01376 563796,


Brogdale Farm

For many, October is the month synonymous with apple harvests, and one of the finest establishments for seeing a huge range of fruit is Brogdale Farm. Set in the weald of Kent, it houses an impressive collection of fruit trees. Its October Apple Festival offers the chance to try and buy more than 2,200 apple cultivars from all over the world and from almost every county in Britain – including many heritage cultivars. A visit to this autumn garden is guaranteed to spark an interest in growing your own fruit. Brogdale Collections, Brogdale Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 8XZ. Tel 01795 536250,


Pan-Global Plants

Founded by plantsman and plant hunter Nick Macer, Pan-Global Plants, offers a selection of unusual plants that have been carefully selected and tried by Nick and his team before they make it into the pages of the nursery’s catalogue – so they’ve done most of the hard work for you. Its range of plants is a reminder that simply because a plant is not easily produced on a large scale, it doesn’t mean it is unsuitable for most beds and borders. Open until the end of October, it now offers mail order but is well worth a trip. Be sure to make plenty of room in your car boot for plants – you’ll need it. The Walled Garden, Frampton Court, Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire GL2 7EX. Tel 01452 741641,


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