A Landscape of Colour: Kew Gardens in Autumn

Liquidambar styracifluaLiquidambar styraciflua

Golden browns, burnt oranges and deep reds - with the leaves starting to turn to a glorious array of colours, there is only one place in London to really experience the delights of Autumn-time.

Kew Gardens is home to over 14,000 trees across its stunning 300 acres. They include hidden delights that display a show-stopping colourful transformation every Autumn. Along the Broad Walk the red oak (Quercus rubra) shines among the Atlantic cedars with its vivid crimson autumn foliage. Near the ruined arch, the maple-like leaves of the majestic sweet gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) change through a magnificent spectrum of yellows, reds and deep purples.

For images of Kew in Autumn please click here.

As the trees shed their summer growth, one of Kew’s most popular attractions – the 18 metre high Xstrata Treetop Walkway – opens up stunning views across the Gardens and the city’s skyline. These vistas reveal the tranquil gardens from an entirely unique perspective, and reach out to include the Wembley Stadium and the Gherkin. Walk a 200 metre circuit up high in the Arboretum canopy to take in the autumnal transformation of sweet chestnuts, limes and deciduous oaks, planted in the 18th century. Wildlife watchers can spot birds such as tawny owls and woodpeckers flitting through the branches, and squirrels foraging for winter food supplies. Visitors journey from a tree’s fascinating root system in the Rhizotron, learning about a tree's life underground, to the top of the tree canopy to explore biodiversity from above.

Tony Kirkham, head of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's Arboretum, said "Autumn is such an exciting season at Kew Gardens – everyday the trees look different with new colours shining through.

As an arborist, I have had the privilege of being up in the tree canopy, experiencing the stunning patchwork of colour of trees from height, as well as birds and other wildlife from a completely different perspective. It's fantastic that, through the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, visitors can have the same experience and we hope everyone who visits will appreciate, through their beauty, just how vital trees are to our existence and how essential it is that we nurture them.

Before visiting their full-sized versions or heading over to the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, why not wander over to the wonderfully quirky Bonsai House and take in these miniature trees in the full throes of Autumn? Built in 1887, Kew’s Bonsai House was originally used for displaying Alpine plants. Bonsai are ornamental trees or shrubs that are grown in pots and pruned to present a miniature version of a mature tree. The word comes from the Japanese terms bon ‘tray’ and sai ‘planting’.

One of the best ways to learn about the nature within the gardens is to join one of our Autumn guided walks, please see below for details:

Introduction to Kew is free, and runs daily, at 11am and 1.30pm (throughout the year). The walk lasts for one hour, and is a great way to discover Kew’s seasonal highlights, and to learn about our history, plants and science.

Mellow Fruitfulness is free, and runs daily, at 12.00pm. This walk runs from 26 September to 30 November, and lasts for one hour, and celebrates all that is autumnal – from ripening fruits and seeds to vibrant foliage.

(Please note: capacity is limited on these tours, so please register 15 minutes before the tour start time at the Guide’s Information Desk inside Victoria Gate Plaza. Groups of 6 or more will need to pre-book a bespoke tour which also requires payment – phone 020 8332 5604, email tours@kew.org).

Tree Identification Tour costs £5, and booking is essential. This tour is on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1pm, from the 1 to 29 October, and lasts for 90 minutes – to book, phone 020 8332 5604 or email tours@kew.org. Is it an oak, an ash, or something exotic? Discover easy ways to identify common trees on this highly popular tour.


Article posted on 05 Sep 2011.

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