What’s the best sound you can hear as summer turns to autumn?
The changing birdsong you’ll hear in the meadows? The crunch of leaves underfoot? The noise of falling chestnuts in the woodland?
All of the above.
But better still, is hearing Carol Adams, Garden Development Manager at The Trentham Estate, talk so enthusiastically about the magical sounds, smells and views which will be on offer within these glorious Staffordshire gardens from the start of October to early December.
This isn’t just leaf peeping.
This is autumn: in every sense of the word.
Visiting Trentham Gardens is a colourful experience, no matter which season you visit. But sit down with Carol in the build-up to autumn, and this is one season ticket you’ll want to have above all others…
Trentham’s is a dramatic “floor to ceiling” autumn.
The woodland trees, reflected in the lake, are just one part of a spectacular show that’s complemented every year by The Rivers of Grass – a breathtaking prairie garden landscape of grasses and vast herbaceous perennials designed by Dutch gardening guru, and Chelsea gold-medal winner, Piet Oudolf.
“There are thousands of perennials in the Italian Gardens and Piet’s Eastern Pleasure Gardens,” says Carol. “We’ve gave them the ‘Chelsea Chop’ at the end of May, to help a second flush, and the seed heads they then develop become nectar to a variety of birds. There will be some soft tints and tones during the day, with golden and silver sunsets towards late afternoon.”
The end of September and beginning of October is when things “start to turn”. October, in particular, is a photographer’s dream with big skies cruising over the lake…and misty mornings providing a gentle prelude to the intensity of the autumn colours.
“Photographers do love it!” she adds. “As the flowers fade, the art installations around the gardens become more of a focal point. And there’s so much of interest to the horticulturalists and garden enthusiasts at this time of year, as well”.
One thing in particular to watch out for is what could arguably be the UK’s largest grove of Katsura (Cercidiphyllum Japonicum) trees at the southern end of the Capability Brown lake. This is one of Carol’s top tips. No-one knows precisely when it will occur, but for around two weeks each year this corner of the estate is filled with a rich, candyfloss, burnt sugar scent.
“We never know when it’s going to happen, but when it does, we find most of our gardeners finding an excuse to go down there; and we have loads of visitors asking what it is – and what has caused it,” says Carol.
Often around the last couple of weeks in October, keep an eye on the Trentham Gardens website and social media channels for further details.
At around this time, flocks of 40-100 finches and long-tailed tits also descend on the gardens and bring their appetite and birdsong to the famous Trentham meadowlands. “The sights and sounds are wonderful at this time of the year”, continues Carol. “This is when many of our architectural plants will end up taking centre-stage, with their big pom-poms of seed heads attracting a large number of birds.”
The dewy autumn mornings in the woodland meadows provide a change of scenery. But moving into November, it’s the trees themselves in the “rediscovered” Capability Brown parkland, which make this one of the best places in the whole of The Midlands for visitors to head to at this time of the year.
“We have a wonderful legacy of Brownian trees, but more-recent planting is bringing with it its own autumn colours,” says Carol.
A collection of American Dogwoods and Cersis recently introduced to the western gardens, is now starting to deliver yet more colour to the gardens; while other trees, chosen with autumn in mind, have been added to enhance the lakeside woodland walk, including 150-plus North American trees.
The October half term brings with it a range of family themed events, including a pumpkin trail. But soon after that, as autumn drifts icily towards Winter, the deep autumnal hues take hold around the lake to create a dramatic crescendo of colour during November.
For more details, visit https://www.trentham.co.uk.