Autumn in the garden at Sheffield Park

Famous for its autumn colour, this is the season the garden was planted for. Arthur Soames, owner during the early 20th century, introduced many of the species which create this spectacle including Nyssa, Acer and Taxodiums. The reflections in the lakes add to the splendour and provide the perfect photograph.

The garden is a horticultural work of art, formed through centuries of landscape design, with influences of ‘Capability’ Brown and Humphry Repton. Four lakes form the heart of the garden, with paths circulating through the glades and wooded areas surrounding them. Each owner has left their impression, which can still be seen today in the layout of the lakes, the construction of Pulham Falls, the planting of Palm Walk and the many different tree and shrub species from around the world.

Must see trees and shrubs this Autumn

Our vast collection of trees and large shrubs are planted to create vistas that enhance the feeling of scale and grandeur of the property, and are recognised as being of international importance for autumn colour; so much so that the garden has received a Grade I listing. 

Vivid Autumn leaves

An acer at Sheffield Park during Autumn

Acer – There are 25 species of acers in the garden, and 240 specimens in total. The leaf colours range from lime green to bright red, and are particularly attractive in October as they develop autumn colour.

Autumn foliage 'Nyssa Sylvatica' at Sheffield Park Gardens, East Sussex

Sheffield Park is famous for it's collection of Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo). With 400 raised from seed by Arthur Soames between 1910-1924, the garden in fact boasts the largest collection of Nyssa on one site. The reason for the concentrated planting of the species was to recreate ‘the fall’, exhibiting the spectacular autumn colours displayed by the species. One species of this tree has been cultivated here, Nyssa Sylvatica ‘Sheffield Park’ and comes into autumn colour about 10 days earlier than others of the genus.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum (Katsura tree) - A deciduous tree from eastern Asia similar to a Judas tree. There is a group of 10 in the garden near Nyssa Grove and Conifer Walk. In late summer to early autumn the foliage turns pale yellow to smoky dark pink with the aroma of burnt sugar or caramel in favourable conditions. 

Pseudolarix amabilis (golden larch) at Sheffield Park in autumn

One of the most dramatic trees towards the end of September can be found at the bottom of Aucklandii Walk. The Pseudolarix amabilis - or golden larch - is a suitable showstopper as you head back up to reception after a peaceful walk around the gardens. The golden larch is not a true larch, hence the botanical name Pseudolarix, or false larch. The species originates from eastern China where it is listed as vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is therefore very rare in the wild and occurs in a few remnants of primary forest on isolated mountains. There is just one specimen of this tree in Sheffield Park.

Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair tree) – Fossils of the Maidenhair Tree have been found in coal seams formed 250 million years ago and this ancient primitive is still around today.  In autumn the leaves turn to brilliant amber. Look out for them in November. 

Swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) by the lake

Taxodium distichum (Swamp or Pond Cypress) - Swamp Cypress is a deciduous conifer, more usually called  the Bald Cypress in America where it grows by tidal creeks. In Sheffield Park, there are two types of Taxodium:- Taxodium distichum, or Swamp Cypress, from the Gulf of Mexico and Taxodium distichum nutans, or Pond Cypress, from South East USA. Of particular interest are pneumatophores (or “knees” as they are often known) which are evident when these trees grow near water or in swampy conditions.

The golden autumn Carya cordiformis at Sheffield Park

Keep an eye on the Carya cordiformis (Bitternut hickory) by reception. When it turns to radiate a stunning golden glow, then you can be sure that autumn is well and truly here.

Colourful seeds

A Euonymus planipes at Sheffield Park, East Sussex

Euonymus planipes (Flat stalked spindle tree) - There are several species of Euonymus to be found in the garden. This particular species produces small flowers in August which then give rise to round, bright red fruit that open out to reveal orange seeds. The leaves turn bright red in autumn. This plant is also called Euonymus sachalinensis.

An acer at Sheffield Park during Autumn

Why do leaves change colour?

Various pigments in the leaves cause the spectacular colours you see around Sheffield Park. Green comes from chlorophyll, needed to convert sunlight into food for the plant. Orange and yellow come from carotenoids which are present in the leaves all year but are normally hidden by chlorophyll. Reds and purples come from anthocyanins which are produced towards the end of summer. The chemical changes affect species in the garden in different ways producing the wide range of colours on display.

Mirror-like Lakes