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A very Japanese autumn

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Sam Youd Sam Youd | 11:21 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

According to the poet John Keats, autumn is the season of 'mists and mellow fruitfulness. How apt that is! 

People often ask me, 'What is the garden's favourite season?' Most will think it is spring - but you know, serious gardeners don't have time to notice spring as they're too busy.

Give me autumn any time: you can step back and enjoy what the garden wants to give you as the curtain comes down on summer and we can enjoy the final act of the year.

The Japanese Tea House at Tatton Park

The Japanese Tea House in autumn (photo by George Littler and Peter Spooner)

The garden here at Tatton Park has some magnificent trees, and as the structural planting consists of quite a number of beech. The avenues look stunning as the sunlight catches the bronze of the leaves in late afternoon.

An acer in the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park

A stunning acer in the Japanese Garden (photo by George Littler and Peter Spooner)

It's been a very fruitful year in all parts of the garden, but now as things start to slow down there is an opportunity to enjoy what looks like being a particularly delightful autumn.

But one of the main highlights for me is our Japanese Garden - and it looks at its very best at this time of year. As the autumn sun penetrates the foliage of the surrounding conifers in the late afternoon, the whole of the garden is 'backlit' to give an electric effect.

Then as the leaves from the maples fall to cover the cushions of moss, the ground takes on the look of a very expensive and rich Axminster carpet! From other angles the trees are reflected int he water, providing yet another dimension to the garden.

Some of the plants in this area which are truly lovely at this time of year are the russet-coloured Royal Fern of Japan (Osmunda regalis) and the red leaves of Euonymus europaeus.

But I've also got a soft spot for the dozens of trees which look so wonderful at this time of year: and particularly acers, so perfect for the Japanese garden - or indeed anywhere with a little shade where a splash of colour in autumn is needed.

Here are some of my favourites, the very best acers for autumn colour. Come and find them in the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park around now and you'll see what I mean.

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’: broadly-toothed leaves of deepest purple turning scarlet in autumn

Acer palmatum  ‘Osakazuki’: large, seven-lobed leaves which turn through burnished bronze to scarlet in autumn

Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium': also known as the Full Moon Maple, this is one of the loveliest maples with elegantly serrated leaves of fresh green turning bright red in autumn. 

Acer japonicum ‘Green Cascade’: a low-growing tree with a weeping habit and lacy, deeply-serrated leaves which turn bright orange, yellow and crimson at this time of year.

And once you've planted all those, you can turn the autumn colour up another notch with these spectacular autumn shrubs.  

Enkianthus campanulatus: the perfect choice for a woodland spot in an acid soil: leaves turn fiery orange and red in autumn 

Azalea mollis: like most deciduous azaleas this easy-going shrub has spectacular autumn colouring

Clethra alnifolia: the sweet pepper bush is perfect for acid soils and turns a dazzling yellow in autumn

Euonymus europaeus: our native spindle turns spectacular shades of scarlet in autumn, but also bears unusual orange and pink winged berries which last well into winter

Nandina domestica: also known as the sacred bamboo of Japan, this easy-going shrub is not related to bamboo but has a similar effect in the garden and is exquisite in Japanese garden settings.

Sam Youd is Gardens Manager at Tatton Park in Cheshire, including the Japanese Garden - widely recognised as among the best Japanese gardens in Europe.

 

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