Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

Time for a walk…

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Having been away from Westonbirt for much of autumn, I was keen to check out what colours nature is affording us at this point in time and heading out into the collection in some authentic autumnal weather today I got up close and personal with a few individuals which grabbed my attention.

Along Palmer Ride Sorbus scalaris more than caught my eye, with the fruit standing out from the mist rather nicely, it has to be said. There are three examples of the species growing in this vicinity and with this species being a reliable performer in terms of fruit production, they always worth paying a visit around this time of year. I was not disappointed!


Making my way through the Cherry collection, I passed by the three young specimens of Nyssa sylvatica mentioned by Mark in last weeks blog. Just a glimpse of the foliage at this time of year indicates why we were rather happy to collect seed of it while in the USA last month. Who wouldn’t want more of this??!


Up in Maple Loop, I was drawn to the vibrant display of colour from Acer pubinerve (previously listed as A. wuyuanese). We have 3 young specimens in the collection (one in Silk Wood and two in the Old Arboretum) and they are certainly worth keeping an eye on. You may recall me mentioning the autumn colour on these last year and they also put on a bit of a show in spring. Watch this space!


Moving around Maple Loop there is still plenty of colour and I took a few more photos of some of the beautiful colours found in the Japanese maple cultivars until the camera lens got wet as the rain started again. But autumn isn’t all about taking photos, as we know. Westonbirt has that special feeling about it and at this time of year it can be all the more enhanced by the weather. It is simply just a great place to be! Immerse yourself and enjoy!!

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A busy time of year in more ways than one…

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Today I got to escape my office for a few hours, with the aim of finding suitable locations for some of the 300 young trees and shrubs that have been lovingly grown in our very own Propagation Unit. I was joined as always for this important annual task by Penny, our amazingly talented Propagator. We were on the hunt for places that would meet all the individual needs of each new plant, taking into account a multitude of factors such as shade and soil depth, so that these new additions can hopefully flourish at Westonbirt for generations to come.

On route around Silk Wood we took the opportunity to enjoy some vibrant autumn colour, which in some ways can appear even more spectacular on a damp day such as today. As always, you will have to excuse my very limited photography skills and cheap digital camera, as I can assure you that everything looks much better in the flesh.

First up is a fine Winged Spindle (Euonymus alatus) on Waste Drive. I have been lucky enough to see this species in the wild back in 2008, and to collect its seed near the edge of a stream at the Ogawa Research Forest in Japan.


Next we spotted a group of three young Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) from North America, adding alternative seasonal interest to Cherry Glade.

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Just nearby and adding further brightness amid the drabness is a Red Maple cultivar (Acer rubrum ‘Tilford’).


Then on Broad Drive a performer that never lets us down, a Spanish Maple (Acer opalus ssp. hispanicum), which provides a mass of orange to red leaves year on year and without fail.


Perhaps a tree that is not often thought to add autumnal interest, is the European Larch (Larix decidua), seen here with golden needles providing a nice contrast in Maple Loop.


Along Willesley Drive you cannot miss this striking Yellow Wood (Cladrastis kentukea) at the moment, this specimen was planted in 1992 and as the botanical name suggests it hails from the USA.


Finally, as autumn slowly turns towards winter, I would advise everyone to keep an eye out for some beautiful examples of tree bark. You can find this Pere David’s Maple (Acer davidii ‘Cantonspark’), part of the aptly named snake bark maple group, positioned near to where the Treetop Walkway will gently touchdown in the not too distant future.


Mission accomplished for now, I head back to the office to catch-up on some much less exciting but nevertheless important health and safety matters…

Mark Ballard

Going out with a bang!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Acer canopies in Acer Glade

Acer Glade

We get lots of phone calls at this time of year – all asking the same questions – when is the best time to visit for autumn colour? When will the maples be at their best?

Acer leaves

Acer palmatum (maple) leaves

These are tricky questions to answer… part of the beauty of having a collection of trees from around the world is that they don’t all show their autumn colour at the same time. Even among the native trees this is true. Autumn by its very nature is a succession of ever-changing colour.

Acer leaves

Acer leaves

So, the best we can do is to show you some highlights from our forays out into the tree collection.

Juglans nigra - black walnut

Juglans nigra - black walnut

We start off with a real stop-you-in-your-tracks, take-your-breath-away autumn stunner… the bright yellow leaves of Juglans nigra, the black walnut. You’ll find this particular specimen on Main Drive, as you head towards Acer Glade.

Sorbus pseudohupehensis

Sorbus pseudohupehensis - mountain ash

Also on this route, just before you veer left onto Specimen Avenue, you’ll see the abundant fruit of Sorbus pseudohupehensis (mountain ash). Sorbus can be overlooked during autumn, but we think you’ll agree that the colour of the fruit here is stunning!

Parrotia persica - Persian ironwood in Colour Circle

Parrotia persica - Persian ironwood in Colour Circle

There are several routes into Acer Glade, if you’re willing to don your Wellington boots and risk a little mud. If you approach via Colour Circle, you’ll see flaming leaved Persian ironwood and smell the wonderful burnt sugar scent of Katsura.

Acer Glade

Acer Glade

In Acer Glade itself there is some delightful colour right now. Catch it in the right light and many of the specimens seem to give off a bright glow.

Acer Glade

Acer Glade

The variety of colours on display may also surprise you. Not just red, but orange, yellow and even purple!

Acer Glade

Acer Glade

Savvy photographers arrive here when we open our gates at 9am, allowing them to catch the best of the autumn colour in the morning light. Whatever time of day you visit, you won’t be disappointed… these trees really are going out with a bang!

Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer

If you’d like to share your photographs of Westonbirt with other visitors in our Welcome Building, why not add them to our Flickr pool?

All eyes on the Old Arboretum!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Today I went out into the Old Arboretum, braving the rain and wind, to see how the colours were looking in our most spectacular season here at Westonbirt.

An early trip to Acer Glade proved more than worthwhile. As I got closer the view became more and more mesmerizing. The ruby reds, neon oranges and bright yellows were a joy to photograph. The raindrops brought out the autumn colour even more, as the glossy leaves shone in all their glory whilst fluttering in the wind – proving their beauty no matter what the weather!

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There were plenty of visitors also braving the elements and exploring in their waterproofs and wellies. So why not pop down and have a look for yourselves? It really is a sight to behold!

For more autumn colour photos, make sure to follow us on instagram: @westonbirtarb.

Marketing Support Officer

Top five tips for autumn photography

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

We’re still early into autumn colour here at Westonbirt, so for our first blog, here’s a different perspective on how to enjoy the spectacular season!

Autumn is Westonbirt’s busiest time of year, when our trees put on a natural firework display and go out with a bang. Here are our tips for capturing the best of seasonal colour.

1. Get up close! Try to capture some more unusual images by getting up close and personal to the trees. Leaves have fascinating details close up, and the rich colours will look great too!

2. Go low. Don’t forget that autumn isn’t just about leaf colour – it’s the season for fungi too, so keep an eye to the ground and don’t be shy, shots taken from ground level can be dramatic!

3. Light fantastic! Morning and late afternoon are great times for photography because the sun is low in the sky. Seek out the rays streaming through the leaves to maximise those vibrant autumn tones!

4. Contrasts. Robert Holford’s planting sought to use natural contrasts to create impact. Take advantage of this in your photography – dark green yew makes a dramatic background to bright red maple leaves…

5. It’s all about the people! We love sharing Westonbirt with our visitors. Have fun and include family, friends or just yourself enjoying the autumn colours. From portraits to selfies, Westonbirt in autumn makes quite a backdrop!

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Join us on Instagram (new to Westonbirt this autumn!), Facebook and Twitter to see more of our autumn images – and use the hashtag #westonbirtautumn when sharing your own images on social media. We’d love to see them!

Gina Mills
Marketing Support Officer

A season spectacular…by Emily Pryor, Marketing Support Officer.

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Well what an autumn it’s been. We were watching the days go by in early October, expecting an explosion, but it kept us hanging on (and still is just by its fingertips).

There’s no doubt there were lots of rumblings about what we should expect this autumn, with mast year being at the forefront of the media, but for my first autumn at Westonbirt for a few years, it was an eye opener.

Thanks to the autumn blog here at Westonbirt, most of the office have managed to get out and enjoy our beautiful trees and landscape, believe it or not, some of us can’t always manage it, even if it’s outside our door!

We have had thoughts from all across the building about what has been best to catch, what’s come and gone, and what’s on its way in.  But nevertheless, we have all enjoyed autumn in our own personal way, just as you probably have.

It just reminds you what a beautiful season it is, yes, the weather hasn’t always been our friend, but those few precious gloriously sunny days have been a spectacle I would challenge you to find anywhere else.

I personally can’t think of any better way to spend my day than wrapping up warm for an autumnal stroll and kick around in the leaves and a nice sit down with a cup of tea and a slice of sponge for afters.  I know those things are with us all year round, but in autumn it’s a different experience all together.

We owe big thanks to the maples for again, putting on a show that no one could have imagined. It was like a little slice of heaven in Acer Glade and Maple Loop, which I’m sure made jaws drop on people of all ages.

We also owe much gratitude to you, our visitors. For not only coming to enjoy something that our tree team work so hard on, year on year looking after, but also for your involvement. All in different ways, whether it was a family day out and trying out the seasonal trail, a photo posted to our Facebook page, a love declared for our trees on Twitter or a chat with our volunteers about it at the Great Oak Hall. You all play your part in making the autumn season a spectacular one, just as much as our trees.

An autumn walk with…Dan Crowley, Dendrologist

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

So once again I journeyed into the Old Arboretum with the camera to show some more of our autumn goodness here at Westonbirt and there still plenty of it, I can assure you of that!!

I started by heading for one of my favourites, which I am sure many of us have been keeping a close eye on, Acer griseum, the paper bark maple. From China and another Ernest Wilson introduction, it colours slightly later and our oldest specimens (and safe to say among the earliest plantings in this country) are just beginning to colour up nicely.

Our round-headed example at the west end of Mitchell Drive (left photo) is well on the way!

 Acer griseum   Acer griseum - Lodge Gates

While the taller specimen at close to Lodge Gates (right photo) has plenty still to go. There is also a younger specimen along Mitchell Drive in between these two – another worth visiting! And once the leaves are gone, the bark really takes over as its stand out feature – what a tree!!

Moving on, and set back from Loop Walk close to Morley Ride, the bright red fruits of Sorbus alnifolia are prominent against the dark back drop of the common yew, Taxus baccata.

Sorbus alnifolia

With its foliage long since gone for the year, it is only the fruit of this S. alnifolia remaining to provide seasonal interest. Seek it out before the birds do!!

Further round Loop Walk is a fine example of Acer pennsylvanicum.

Acer pennsylvanicum

Turning a particularly nice shade of yellow, the leaves were falling as I took this photo (not that you can tell!), so this fine display will not be with us for too much longer for this year. Interestingly, while there are around 20 species of snake bark maple, this is the only one native to North America, the others being Asian representatives this important genus.

Staying with plants of Asian origin is Photinia villosa. Not uncommon, this is known to be a later one to colour in autumn and is certainly doing its thing with us just now! Aside from the fine foliage colour, the fruits are also looking good. Like those of Sorbus alnifolia they are shining a bright red – yet another winner in the Rose family! This individual is growing adjacent to Loop Walk close to the end of Morley Ride, though there are a number of others also looking good just now elsewhere on site, like much else – but don’t take my word for it!! 

Back to maples, but only because it’s worth it, we have Acer palmatum subsp. palmatum.

Acer palmatum subsp. Palmatum

This subspecies is known for its smaller leaves that are held for longer and colour later. True to form, this mature specimen on Pool Avenue is doing just that. Enjoy.

Not far away, in Colour Circle, this example of Taxodium distichum  is really coming to the fore right about now.

Taxodium distichum

Colouring something of a dark peach, this is another North American favourite. Native to the south eastern states and known as bald, or swamp cypress, it is known for its ‘knees’ when growing in particularly damp areas. Whilst not apparent with us here, its fantastic autumn colour certainly is!

Just across Pool Avenue is this stand of dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides.

Metasequioa glyptostroboides

Like the swamp cypress, it is a species of deciduous conifer and both are members of the Cypress family, the Cupressaceae. Endangered in the wild, the dawn redwood was discovered in 1941, having long been thought extinct, and introduced to the U.K in 1949. Our oldest specimen (Growing on Specimen Avenue) was planted in 1953 though this group is younger, with the youngest trees planted in 1991.

Before heading out of the Old Arboretum, I visited a plant I observe on most days heading out into the collection on this side of the valley. Growing close to the bottom of Savill Glade and different from all that has been mentioned in our series of autumn blogs (so far!), Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is one that I am highlighting for its flowers. 

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Pale pink and pleasantly scented, these emerge from October onwards and are largely frost-resistant – most welcome as we move out of autumn and into winter. With more than a hint of autumn colour and one of a fantastic genus of (mainly!) shrubs, this is definitely one for the small garden!

Moving into Silk Wood then, and into Sand Earth we have the Japanese Malus tchonoskii.

Malus tchonoskii Malus tchonoskii.

A recent planting with us in 2010, having been collected as seed in the wild by colleagues here at Westonbirt. This example has established well and is now fulfilling its potential as a great autumnal feature. Growing with a lovely conical habit, it looks set to perform a role for us for some time to come – definitely one to keep an eye on!

Back on to Willesley Drive and one that may be easily missed is Hamamelis virginiana.

Hamamelis virginian

From eastern North America, as the name suggests, it is not notable for its foliage at this time of year, but for its flowers. Flowering earlier than other representatives of the genus, its yellow flowers are also smaller than some, with a pleasant, but subtle scent.

Up to Maple Loop and this area is beginning to really sing! There is all the colour of the Acer palmatum cultivars and the larch (Larix sp.) are also performing admirably.

Acer palmatum cultivars and (Larix sp.)

Another genus of deciduous conifer, though this time a member of the Pinaceae, the pine family, larch are clearly more than just plantation trees, though this was their original purpose in this area. This part of the arboretum is becoming a real favourite and is only set to improve as the young plants continue to establish. Swamp cypress also feature here with these young plants, wild collected by our colleagues at Bedgebury Pinetum, looking good to become the overstorey of the future. Like many of our plants we hope they will perform multiple roles in the landscape, providing both structure and autumn colour.

Swamp cypress

A trip down The Link is always worthwhile and at the Broad Drive end grows a fine young example of Acer pycnanthum.

Acer pynathum

Yet another fantastic plant from Japan. Closely related to the red maple of North America, Acer rubrum, it differs in being both smaller in form and foliage. Whilst our specimens of A. rubrum are among the earliest to colour in autumn, A. pycnanthum tends to be later and is among so many of our trees looking good now. Don’t miss out!

An autumn walk with…Mark Ballard, Curator

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Well, we are at the heart of yet another exciting autumn at Westonbirt right now, and I have to say that although every year is different in some way, I am yet to be disappointed. It is impossible to predict which plants will shine and exactly when that will be each year, which together with the fact that every day is unique, makes for a lot of fun.

Today I ventured out into Silk Wood with my colleague Penny, our highly skilled Propagator. Our mission was to begin the process of finding suitable locations within the landscape for the next generation of young plants, which have all been carefully grown from seeds within our very own nursery. You are welcome to witness this impressive operation for yourself, as there is an interpretation area for visitors next door to the very pretty Keepers Cottage.

Just like everyone else, Penny and I took the opportunity to enjoy lots of fantastic autumnal colour on our travels, a real perk of the job. Unquestionably, the stars of the show at the moment are the many species and cultivars of maple, which can appear even more dazzling when it is overcast, especially with a dramatic sky full of fast moving clouds as a backdrop.

As always, it’s best to get out there and explore the collection for yourself, and don’t be afraid to wander far from the path, as you are sure to find some unexpected gems around each corner. Enjoy!

Nerine bowdenii Elaeagnus rhamnoidesCotinus coggygria

In photo one is the Nerine bowdenii. This late flowering plant is also known as Cornish lily, Cape flower or Guernsey lily. In the second photo, Elaeagnus rhamnoides sea buckthorn, (formerly Hippophae rhamnoides) is one of our important signature plants, with great foliage and fruit at the moment. The third photo is of Cotinus coggygria (Smoke bush) on Waste Drive which provides a nice variety.

Cotinus ‘Grace’ Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum' Penny Jones, Propagator

The first photo of this three is of Cotinus ‘Grace’ in the foreground with the yellow of Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) in the background. The second showcases Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’ (purple Japanese maple) in full glory near Broad Drive. Photo three is our well respected and talented Propagator, Penny, at work, inspecting maples up close!

Maple Loop, Silk WoodMaplesAcer palmatum ‘Shime-no-uchi’

Photo one: I think as Maple Loop continues to establish, it is looking more attractive every year that passes, and is certainly now a rival to the splendour of Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum. The sun highlighting the colours and shapes of Maple leaves in photo two. The last photo is of Acer palmatum ‘Shime-no-uchi’.  This attractive Japanese maple cultivar was planted in Maple Loop with other specimens in 2005 to mark 100 years of Rotary.

Larix x eurolepisMaple LoopCarpinus betulus

Photo one: Deciduous hybrid larch trees (Larix x eurolepis) provide a vital protective over-storey here, but can be stunning in their own right. In photo two: this central vista is a key landscape component of the recently designed Maple Loop, and will become more prominent as plants develop and grow. Photo three: Carpinus betulus – we shouldn’t forget that our native trees, such as these common hornbeams, can look just as good too.


An autumn walk with…Dan Crowley, Dendrologist

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

We thankfully appear to have missed the worst of any storm here at Westonbirt and although it is becoming particularly damp in some areas, autumn is very much still on! So yesterday afternoon I journeyed out into the Old Arboretum and I can now share with you some of the autumnal treats I came across on my travels.

I headed to Morley Ride first for something of a rarity, the simple leaved Sorbus keissleri. I have been keeping a close eye on the fruits of this plant as they have developed and they are looking pretty good to me! Native to China, it is one of many introduced by Gloucestershire’s own, the legend, Ernest Wilson, in 1907. Forming something of a large shrub with us, it is one that should perhaps be a little better known.

Sorbus keissleri

Staying with fruits, those of Virburnum dilatatum are also looking particularly good. In contrast with the (still) green foliage, they are worth seeking out on a group of plants out not far from Loop Walk near the bottom of Lime Avenue. Another species of Asian origin, though this time from Japan, it is one of many Virburnums of true horticultural value.

Virburnum dilatatum

Further around Loop Walk and close to the new 2050 glade (though on the other side of the path!) is a young example of a rare maple, Acer wuyuanense. As is apparent from the photo, the cessation of chlorophyll production unmasks other pigments present in the leaf providing us with a quite beautiful display. If this performance is anything to go by, this species could really be one to look out for in future years, as well as today!!

Acer wuyuanense

Another I am rather fond of is the purple fruited chokeberry Aronia prunifolia. A member of an underused genus, whether A. prunifolia be classed as a species in its own right or a hybrid between the red fruited chokeberry, A. arbutifolia, and the black fruited chokeberry A. melanocarpa remains a topic for discussion! Regardless, the purple fruit is an attractive feature long after the leaves have dropped, as they have now! An edible fruit, the common name alludes to it being one of the last to be taken by birds and not something more sinister, I am assured! Worth seeking out on Loop walk, this is another option for those with a small garden.

Aronia prunifolia

Back towards the one of the oldest parts of the Old Arboretum is a fine young example of Stewartia pseudocamellia. Stunning autumn foliage and fine bark are only two of its many attributes. This particular specimen is yet to show the latter but an older specimen close by certainly does!

Stewartia pseudocamellia

And finally for now, and not one that people immediately associate with autumn is the champion Magnolia sprengeri (you might know as diva) at the bottom of Savill Glade. The genus is rightfully renowned for its flowers in spring and summer but the fruit can be equally striking. As it was laden with flowers earlier in the year, it is now laden with fruit – come and see for yourselves!   

Magnolia sprengeri


An autumn walk with…Mark Ballard, Curator

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

An Australian colleague of mine has recently moved back down under, and before he departed I asked him what he would most miss about living in the UK.  Without hesitation he said it would definitely be our changing seasons, and that we were incredibly lucky to have four of them (he has either hot/dry or hot/wet).  Now we all like to moan about the weather from time to time, but upon reflection I have to say that I agree.  With this in mind and as life is after all, too short, I put on my boots, a raincoat, grabbed the camera and set off into the Old Arboretum on a rather dull day.

I am pleased to say I was joined along the way by many like-minded visitors: from a newly married couple with their wedding photographer; smiling people of all ages; to a helpful chap with a camera telling me “don’t bother taking a photograph of that little maple as you will not believe the colourful display in Acer Glade”.  He was right, Acer Glade is looking wonderful even with a grey sky overhead and perhaps the colours appeared even more vivid under these conditions.

So, as there are very few reasons not to take the plunge, I strongly recommend that you get out there and enjoy the exhilaration of the seasonal delights of Autumn, before it’s too late.  You will enjoy it as much as I did and I’m sure your pictures will almost certainly be better than mine too!

Acer Glade    Evergreen background
Left picture: A riot of colour as you enter Acer Glade. Right picture: The evergreen background has been designed to help show-off more ornate trees.

Japanese maple        Acer palmatum
Left picture: Vibrant red of a Japanese Maple. In the right photo, the Acer palmatum contrasts red and green to great affect.

Acer palmatum 'Dissectum'           Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree)

Left photo: Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’ in full cut-leaved glory. Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Tree) in the right photo is a particularly bright at the moment.

Stewartia   Juglans nigra (Black Walnut)
Left photo: This Stewartia not only has great winter bark, but fantastic leaf colour as well. In the right photo the Juglans nigra (Black Walnut) leaves appear to form an interesting geometric pattern.

Zelkova serrata (Keaki)  Fothergilla major (Witch Alder)
Left photo: this young Zelkova serrata (Keaki) will certainly be a star of the future. Right photo: One by one, different plants take their turn to shine, even this Fothergilla major (Witch Alder).

Mark Ballard