Autumn in the garden at Sheffield Park

Autumn colours in the sunshine at Sheffield Park, Sussex

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.


Water has always been a key element of the landscape at Sheffield Park and our five lakes have become an iconic feature, which is much photographed and enjoyed by everyone who visits.  The hand-dug, clay-lined construction of the top two lakes creates dramatic reflections of the carefully planned planting that surrounds them.

Double the beauty with these stunning reflections
Trees in autumn colour reflect in the lake
Double the beauty with these stunning reflections

Pulham Falls

The Pulham Falls, which connect Ten Foot Pond and Middle Lake, were commissioned by the 3rd Earl of Sheffield and installed between 1882 and 1885 by Pulham and Son.  We turn the falls on between 12.00 – 1.00pm every Tuesday and Friday – a spectacular sight to take in during your visit.

Trees and shrubs

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.  The garden has received a Grade I listing and holds the national collection of Ghent Azaleas.  Below are some key species to look out for this season.

The orange berries of Euonymus planipes in early autumn
A Euonymus planipes at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
The orange berries of Euonymus planipes in early autumn


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.

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 the Gentian beds. 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. 


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 now particularly attractive as they develop autumn colour.

Nyssa sylvatica (Tupelo) – With 400 raised from seed by Arthur Soames between 1910-1924, the garden 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.


Gingko 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.

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.

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.

If you are interested in learning more about the garden, free garden tours are offered every Tuesday and Thursday at 11am, just ask at reception.

Taxodium distichum at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Swamp cypress at Sheffield Park, East Sussex
Taxodium distichum at Sheffield Park, East Sussex