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As the leaves start to turn and the first signs of autumn colour appear, the gardening team at the world-famous Stourhead landscape garden is once again preparing for its most popular season.

There are more than 600 species of trees and shrubs at Stourhead and it can take up to six weeks for the autumn colours to wash their way across the trees around the garden.

Stoourhead autumn
A distant view of the temple in early morning light at Stourhead.
National Trust Images by Tamsin Holmes

Stourhead’s tree collection reacts to seasonal changes naturally. The shorter days and drops in temperature act as triggers causing the trees to store more food in their leaves, which is then absorbed back into the main structure of the tree. As the leaves begin to die on the tree they fade away resulting in beautiful changes in colour.

Alan Power, the National Trust’s Head Gardener at Stourhead says: ‘The early signs of autumn are already here with fairly strong colour changes happening in some of the trees already, helped along by the recent sunny days and cool nights. Perfect autumn conditions. The garden team are preparing for five or six weeks of daily leaf collecting.’

He continues: ‘Autumn is a whole season, it changes every day and you need to enjoy it from start to finish to really get the contrasts. To see it at its best you need to come and come again. First thing in the morning is beautiful in autumn, as the mist rises off the lake, but it is equally fantastic throughout the day.’

Due to the sheltered position of the garden, situated in a valley, Stourhead’s trees generally turn slower than other areas. This means that visitors can experience a slow and gradual change in the garden, offering a new scene if visited repeatedly over a long autumn.

The first signs of autumn on a chestnut tree by the lake at Stourhead.
National Trust Images by Tamsin Holmes

Alan adds: ‘Overall it has been a great year for the garden, although there were a few minor setbacks, for example the beech trees suffered from a late spring frost and there was some ash die back. Summer was particularly nice, in terms of a British summer. There was lots of rain and there were dry spells, but we did not suffer from long periods of drought, unlike the previous year.’

The team at Stourhead have once again set up the ‘leafline’. By phoning Stourhead visitors planning a trip will be able to listen to Alan and other gardeners providing regularly updated information on how the autumn colour is progressing, and what to look out for.

The garden and its 2,650 acres of Wiltshire parkland are open every day, except Christmas Day. The Palladian style house is open most days, but call 01747 841152 to check opening times or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead

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