The best autumn gardens in Essex

PUBLISHED: 16:06 31 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:06 31 October 2016

Autumn reflections at Marks Hal Millenium Walk

Autumn reflections at Marks Hal Millenium Walk


This time of year is ideal for discovering a stunning display of vibrant colour as trees change into their dazzling autumn mantle. Philippa Pearson discovers the best places in Essex to see autumn colour as well as picking out some top trees for your own garden

Autumn leaves gather in a pond at Daws HallAutumn leaves gather in a pond at Daws Hall

Trees that give all year round interest from their bark, foliage, flowers, fruit or shape 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 and their attractively-shaped leaves turn fiery shades of crimson and red in autumn. Good maples to try in smaller gardens include Acer griseum, the Paper Bark Maple, which has peeling cinnamon-coloured bark, while Acer davidii, the Snake Bark Maple, has attractive green and white striped bark.

Tulipa liriodendron leaves start to change colour at Daws HallTulipa liriodendron leaves start to change colour at Daws Hall

The Himalayan Birch, Betula utilis var. jacquemonti, has stunning pure white bark as well as deep buttery foliage colour in autumn. The team at Marks Hall at Coggeshall have planted groups of these among drifts of bright red dogwood, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’, and other shrubs to create seasonal interest in the Birkett Long Millennium Walk. Created in 2000, the Millennium Walk is planned for autumn and winter interest from September to March with attractive coloured stems, bark, plant silhouettes and seed heads making a seasonal autumnal and winter tapestry, all carefully positioned to form stunning reflections in the adjacent lake.

A touch of red on an interesting Acer at Daws HallA touch of red on an interesting Acer at Daws Hall

Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ is another of my favourite autumn trees with beautiful heart-shaped reddish leaves, pretty flowers in mid-spring and a lovely outline shape all year round. See this and many other trees and shrubs looking fabulous this autumn at Green Island Garden near Ardleigh. Foliage colour comes from Maples, Cotinus, Nyssa, Taxodium distichum (Swamp Cypress) and Euonymous which turn vivid shades of red, orange and yellow before dropping.

Dazzling autumn colourDazzling autumn colour

Iain Grahame started to create the gardens at Daws Hall on the Essex/Suffolk border near Bures, in the 1960s. There was very little garden when he moved there and Iain wanted to have a good show of autumn colour, so he planted lots of trees. With help from his knowledgeable Dutch gardener, the late Ceef Stapel, many rare and unusual species were planted and many of these are maturing gracefully. From late October the gardens are defined by autumn hues as foliage begins to change colour. Acers are key players in the autumn display with Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ and A. p ‘Sango-kaku’ among the best for leaf and stem colour. Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ is very unusual with stunning red stems in winter and pale green foliage which turns buttery yellow in autumn. Elsewhere, there’s a magnificent Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’, while Nyssa sylvatica and N. sinensis compete for their share of colourful attention.

Snake Bark MapleSnake Bark Maple

Dramatic changing foliage is in abundance at RHS Hyde Hall Garden too. The Robinson Garden contains some fantastic trees for autumn colour including Fraxinus angustifolia ‘Raywood’ with its rich claret foliage, Liquidambar styraciflua whose glossy red leaves change colour from the top of the tree downwards, and yellow/orange tinted Parrotia persica. There’s also a good collection of Malus (crab apples) with leaves and fruit looking good while trees surrounding the sweeping borders on

Colourful leaves and stems on Dogwood at Marks HallColourful leaves and stems on Dogwood at Marks Hall

Clover Hill create a colourful autumn backdrop to the large drifts of perennials and grasses.

You'll find lots of specimen trees at Marks HallYou'll find lots of specimen trees at Marks Hall

Five top trees for autumn

Five trees for your garden to give a fabulous display of autumn colour and add year round interest

Maples have stunning autumn leaf colourMaples have stunning autumn leaf colour

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' at Green Island GardensCercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' at Green Island Gardens

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

Autumn hues from Cotinus at Green Island GardensAutumn hues from Cotinus at Green Island Gardens

Cornus kousa var. chinensis

Spreading branches have showy white bracts in early summer and stunning orange, bronze and crimson foliage in autumn. Height 6m


Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia Splendens’

Autumn colkour at Green Island gardenAutumn colkour at Green Island garden

Large glossy leaves turn brilliant orange-red in autumn. White flowers in spring are followed by scarlet red fruits lasting through autumn. Height 10m

Swamp Cypress have impressive autumn leaf colourSwamp Cypress have impressive autumn leaf colour

Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’

The glossy star-shaped leaves of the Sweet Gum tree turn a vibrant red and scarlet in autumn. Height 25m

Malus ‘Evereste’

One of the best Crab Apples for spring blossom followed by red-orange-yellow fruit which last through and good autumn foliage colour. Height 7m

Visit an autumn garden

Marks Hall




01376 563796

Enjoy woodland walks, the arboretum, Millennium Walk, an 18th century Walled Garden and the visitor centre with tea room, gift shop and plant centre. Check the website for Autumn Colour opening times in November and December.

Green Island Gardens

Park Road



C07 7SP

01206 230455

20 acres of professionally-designed gardens including terrace, Japanese garden, island beds, water gardens, gravel, seaside gardens and extensive woodland gardens all packed with many unusual plants. The gardens are planted for interest all year round including superb autumn colour in October/November. Open until November 30, 10am to 5pm, on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Daws Hall Gardens

Henny Road





01787 269213

Find superb autumn colour in ten acres with rare, unusual trees, shrubs and a huge collection of old-fashioned roses. There is also a series of interlinking ponds containing a collection of native and exotic waterfowl, plus a 20 acre nature reserve with river, stream, woodland and wild flower meadow. An Autumn Colour Open Day takes place on Sunday, October 23, noon to 4pm.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall

Creephedge Lane



Essex CM3 8ET

0845 265 8071

Discover autumn colour looking good throughout the gardens. Guided tours of the woodlands take place as part of the Woodfest event on November 5 and 6. The gardens are open from November to February, 10am to 4pm, and March to October, 10am to 6pm.


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