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Autumn in an Arboretum and Afternoon Tea

We were lucky to receive a voucher for an afternoon tea from our son Jamie and daughter-in-law Sam, and of course little Arabella and decided to redeem it at a hotel down in the Cotswolds, near the village of Moreton-in-the-Marsh.

We drove down early and spent time wandering Batsford Arboretum, enjoying the colours of autumn leaves before the winds blew them from the branches. It was a dull day but the foliage glowed through the gloom. Most colour came from Acers and Liquidamber of many varieties of each. The wind had already whipped many leaves from their branches.


Of course autumn isn’t complete without the red, pinks, oranges and reds of berries, provided by Sorbus, Malus and here at Batsford by the unusual tree called Zanthoxylum planispinum (photo below left).


One area of the arboretum was strongly influenced by Japanese garden styles, complete with red painted wooden bridges.


While looking at this statue of Buddha we had to suddenly take refuge  in the Japanese tea house nearby from a quick but heavy shower in.


We only just allowed ourselves enough time to reach Charingworth Manor for our afternnon tea booked for three in the afternoon. On the journey there it began to rain slightly and the temperature dropped so we were glad to get inside this beautiful Cotswold manor house to the warm and dry. We sat to enjoy our tea close to a huge log fireplace of golden Cotswold stone.

What a great day we had with autumn foliage, an amble around an arboretum finished off in style with afternoon tea.



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The Dorothy Clive Garden in September

Back again ready to enjoy another visit to the Dorothy Clive Gardens and see what has been happening since our August visit. We expected early signs of Autumn and hoped for some colourful displays of Dahlias and Salvias. We decided to take a walk around the young mini-arboretum area this month instead of following the winding paths of the Dingle which has less interest at this time of the year.

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As we wandered over to the coffee shop we admired the views over the lower garden and the light which lit up the Pampus Grass behind the Viburnum caught my eye. This was a sign that we could be looking forward to interesting light for garden photography. fingers crossed!

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The border alongside the entrance to the coffee shop was at its most colourful so far this year, with Dahlias, Salvias, Nerine and Hesperantha sharing their colours.

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These brightly coloured plants set the scene for much of our September visit.

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I thought that a gallery of brightly cheerful flowering plants would be a good way of sharing the warm feeling prevailing over the Dorothy Clive Garden this September visit.

Please click on first pic and then navigate using arrows and of course enjoy!

I promised to share our enjoyment of wandering around the soft grass paths that led us around the little arboretum and closely studying the young trees. One surprise was the total lack of autumnal tints to the foliage.

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We were particularly taken by this unusual, in fact unknown to us, Hawthorn, Crataegus laciniata. We are now considering adding one to our garden.

The foliage presented a metallic appearance, almost pewter and the haws ranged from yellows through orange and to a dull brown – a most subtle but attractive combination.

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I feel that another gallery is the best way to share our amble through the arboretum.


Our next visit to these lovely gardens will be for our October report so we should be getting into signs if autumn by then.

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Arboreta in Autumn – Batsford Part 2

As we return to Batsford we are still wandering along the pathway that promised us views of plen1ty of unusual and beautiful trees and shrubs. Being autumn of course gives us the added benefits that it brings – yellows, oranges and reds in every shade possible. Many are on the ground at our feet so rather than just their colours we enjoyed their sounds as we scrunched through them with our boots and kicked them into the air bringing back childhood memories. Jude the Undergardener and I have frequent childhood memories which we have to relive.

Think of autumn colour and for many the first plant to spring into the mind is the massive family of Acers. Batsford has dozens of varieties both trees and shrubs.

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We were drawn in by the sight of raspberry coloured seed pods shaped like arthritic old fingers. They were hanging on a Magnolia x veichii “Peter Veitch”, with its large pleated leaves.

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The scent from these lovely acid yellow Mahonia reminded us of pineapples which made our mouths water!

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We have a Liquidamber styraciflua “Worplesdon” in our front garden which is fastigiate so takes up little room, but this beauty would dwarf an awful lot of our other plants. The Liquidamber styraciflua here is a beautiful tree as are all Liquidamber.

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There is more to this arboretum than trees and shrubs as we discovered when we came across this Japanese style building and oriental sculptures, all adding a little eastern spice.

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This sculture was equally beautiful but was simply created by Mother Nature as the top of this tree had died away.

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Wherever I go in the autumn and winter I keep an eye out for dried seed heads and flower heads as I enjoy their colours, shapes and textures. I managed to manoeuvre my self and my camera to photograph these against dark leafy backgrounds.

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Just a few shots now to illustrate how much colour can be found around trees in this autumnal period.

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The pale raspberry coloured fruit of Cornus x cousa “Norman Hadden”  once ripe will be enjoyed by the local Blackbird population but they look good before they disappear.

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So that is it for our visit to Batsford Arboretum for now but I feel sure we will be back.

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Arboreta in Autumn – part 2 – Batsford

We made a special effort to get to see several different arboreta this autumn. We visited our friend Richard’s arboretum twice, then drove northward to the Bluebell Arboretum and Nurseries and finally south to Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire.

Batsford is one of the biggest and oldest arboreta in the UK and a very well-known one so provided a good contrast to Richard’s place and Bluebell as these are relatively small and both just over 20 years old. Their own publicity leaflet describes Batsford as “The Cotswold’s Secret Garden” but judging by the number of visitors even on a dull day it seemed far from a secret.

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New borders lined the gently sloping pathway leading down from the car park to the reception area. The beauty of the planting here which included this yellow berried Sorbus and two very different Indigofera, prepared us for the treats we had in store.

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After walking just a few yards from the entrance we came across a special tree – one of those specimens that stops you in your tracks and starts the brain and memory off trying to work it out. It was like a Cotoneaster in leaf and growth habit but it had black berries rather than the more usual red. Luckily it had a label and it was indeed a black berried Cotoneaster. Here was a plant we had never seen before or even knew existed. It is called Cotoneaster moupinensis. This was going to be a good day!

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Contrasting leaves in shape and size make for good plant combinations, such as this large leaved Dalmera paltata in front of the delicately leaved Acer palmatum. We liked the contrast between the slim fragile white Fuschia flower and the gritty surface of a capping stone as we crossed over a bridge.

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Autumn visits to any arboretum means colourful foliage but we always find flowers of interest flowering in this season too, Hydrangeas, Viburnum and an unusual flowered Heptacodium.

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Berries too caught our attention among the colours of fire, the yellows, oranges and reds especially this particular Berberis dripping with long racemes of red berries. Nearby rose hips dripped from the plant which had lost all its leaves.

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Sorbus pseudohupahensis “Pink Pagoda” bears berries of pin and white which from a distance gives the affect of pink mist. Another Sorbus attracted us by the sheer size of its pure white berries, Sorbus cashmeriana.

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Sorbus scalaris like most Sorbus displays red berries but what is most noticeable with this tree is the uniformity of its foliage which was hanging on into the autumn.

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Remember the Dalmera peltatum  which I showed teamed up with an Acer, well we found several large clumps of this bog-loving plant around Batsford. I enjoyed getting up close and looking through the Nikon lens at the details of their giant leaves.

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No arboretum visit in the autumn can be reported without celebrating the family of Acers. Enjoy!

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As well as the bright changing colours of the leaves and the appearance of berries there is one tree that we appreciate in autumn for its pale yellow coloured autumn foliage but this foliage as it falls has an amazing sweet smell like brittle toffee, burnt sugar or toffee apples. Cercidyphylum japinicum

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As we moved on along the trail we were literally stopped in our tracks at the sight of the Berberis with its incredibly long and unusually coloured racemes of flowers.

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Around the next bend in the path this beautifully coloured cherry tree glowed a salmon pink colour and we rushed to read its label. We discovered it was a close relative of a tiny flowering cherry we grow in our Japanese Garden at home, Prunus incisa “Kojo-no-mai”. This much larger tree was Prunus incisa fuginaea, the Fuji Cherry. We could only guess at how spectacular it must look in flower.

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We wandered on stopping frequently to look for labels, sometimes to confirm what we thought trees and shrubs and sometimes to find out.

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I always manage to find Betulas (Birches) in every arboretum we visit and here we came across the beautifully coloured bark variety, Betula albosinensis Septentrionalis.

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I shall finish this first post about Batsford with another favourite, this time a shrub, a deciduous Euonymus, Euonymous oxyphyllus, which flowers and berries in remarkable style.

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Bluebell Arboretum – Part 2

Back to Derbyshire and we shall continue our beautiful autumnal wanderings within the grounds of Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery. I shall concentrate on a selection of the true favourites we enjoyed most of all. The beauty of this arboretum is that there is so much to discover and enjoy that our favourites would be different each time we visit.

We start again just as we discovered a couple of different Hawthorns which is always interesting as most nurseries sell only the common native as a hedge plant and the double pink ornamental tree form. We enjoyed discovering the unusual Crataegus tanacetifolia, the Tansy Leaved Thorn and the rare Crataegus ellwangeriana “Fireball”. It is amazing how the leaf shapes differ as do the berry colours.

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Now I will share two very different trees worth growing for their bark colours, patterns and textures, on the left Betula utilis “Grayswood Ghost” and in the centre and on the right Acer davidii “Cascade”. This selection of snakebark maple has a beautiful delicately weeping habit.

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This next specimen had me foxed and I had to go in search of a label. Although it is a Lime the leaves were the size of a Catalpa but the label informed us it was Tilia carolina subs. heterophylla.

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We were attracted to the autumn foliage colour of this Tulip Tree, so crisp and bright on a dull day. It is Lirodendron tulipifera  “Arnold” a tree we had never seen before with its fastigiate form.

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I love the berries and leaf shapes of all the Sorbus and to see a variety new to me was a delightful surprise, Sorbus eburnia “Harry Smith”. It was growing close to a Liquidamber which was turning from deep green to deep reds, and formed a beautiful open specimen.

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Before I tell you what tree impressed me most at this wonderful arboretum I would like to share a few pics of  Euonymus europaeus “Thornhayes” one of the selections of our native deciduous Euonymus simply because they are my favourite deciduous shrub and a Hydrangea petiolaris just getting established at the base of a tree. This will look great in 5 years time! We can’t grow them and so have given up! I have just discovered that the botanists have now decided that this climbing shrub must be called Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris. I wonder what it did to deserve that!


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And the star of the show? Well it just has to be a Birch doesn’t it – Betula utilis “Doorenbos”. White stems with the texture of suede and in places the gentlest hints of salmon pink. This multi-stemmed specimen stopped us in our tracks.

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Of course before we left with just minutes until Bluebell shut up shop for the day we had to have a peruse around the nursery. We bought this little beautiful shrub with its delicate little scented yellow flowers and bronzed foliage turning red in places as autumn was approaching. It is called Bush Honeysuckle or Diervilla lonicera for our garden at home and a tree for the Winter Garden at our allotment community gardens, an orange stemmed Lime, Tilia cordata “Winter Orange” a tree we have been searching for since we planted this border up over 6 years ago now. So we had a great day and came home with two wonderful new plants. We were so interested in everything the Bluebell Arboretum has to offer that we almost overstayed our welcome. The owners politely asked if they could close the gate now please so they could take their dogs for a walk and they probably deserved their tea! Below is our newly purchased Diervilla.

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Arboreta in Autumn – part 1- Bluebell Arboretum

The highlight of every autumn season has to be visiting various arboreta of which there are many within a day’s drive. Our first visit this year was to Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery situated in Derbyshire near the town with the wonderful rather eccentric name of  Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The nursery specialises in rare and unusual shrubs and trees and every plant they sell is of excellent quality.

Within the first 5 minutes of our wander around the arboretum we had discovered a lovely variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. Betulas, Acers, Clethras, Euonymus and Hydrangeas.

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But of course you can find little clumps of the brightest of colours, orange as in these Kniphofias.

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We enjoyed close up views of fruits and flowers in between having to step backwards to appreciate the full beauty of specimen trees.

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In close proximity to trees we always take a close look at textures on their bark.

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Of course being autumn time we were here largely to view the colours of the season. The leaves of this Cotinus were turning red slowly beginning with splashes of colour between the veins, giving a great contrast of reds and greens. Liquidamber turn deep shades of red through the autumn and hold onto their coloured foliage until the early spring. The first leaves to turn can provide almost black shades amongst the greens.

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This oak displayed foliage in the deepest orange and had the interesting name “Quercus x Warii “Chimney Sweep”.

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Where autumnal colours are concerned none could be brighter than this deciduous Euonymus.

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Luckily for us the nurseryman were well into a trial of new strains of Physocarpus opulifolius, those shrubs that afford us the glossy almost black foliage. At home we grow the well established “Diablo” but we were pleased to be able to study newer varieties with differeing tints of colour working amongst the black, such as “Diablo D’or” . In the next few years we will be seeing some interesting improved variations on “Diablo”.

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I shall finish the first part of our visit to the Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery with a look at a few specimens of my favourite trees the Birches, grown as usual for their incredible coloured and textured trunks. These three photos show how the trunks can vary from white to black with colours in between.

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We shall continue our tour of this great little and relatively young arboretum in part 2.

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Arboreta in Autumn – part 3 – Return to Richard’s

We loved our first visit to friends Richard and Anne’s home where we were treated to a tour of their wonderful, atmospheric arboretum. There is something extra special about a small arboretum, the results of one man’s vision. Richard knows every tree he has ever planted, its common name, its botanic name, its country of origin and the source of the plant or seed. The arboretum is now just 20 years old.

After a warm welcome we firstly enjoyed the lovely courtyard garden that Anne tends. It is a soft, gentle area that embraces the south facing side of the old mustard coloured mill house. Red flowered Pelargoniums with deep purple foliage filled an old stone trough beneath a brick wall clothed in soft pink roses of the climbing rose, Rosa “Open Arms”. Its scent is warm and richly fruity and remains with you as you leave it behind.

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The stone paving is softened by beautiful compositions of flowers and foliage.

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Richard and Anne took us across the gently sloping lawns with a boundary provided by the River Perry, and we climbed up to a gate in the fence which is the entrance to Richard’s fine collection of the finest trees. The real stars of the collection are Betulas (Birches), Acers, deciduous Euonymous and Liquidambers.

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More surprising was the incredibly deeply coloured red leaved Oak, with its large deeply cut leaves  and……..

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……….. this unusual specimen, Pistacia chinensis commonly known as the Chinese Pistacia.

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Every arboretum needs a selection of Sorbus (Rowans) to give the many coloured bunches of shiny berries, and Richard’s arboretum boasted a lovely group.

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Probably my favourite deciduous shrubs are the deciduous Euonymus with their unusual flowers and bizarrely coloured berries, combining such colours as cerise and orange. Luckily for me it is also Richard’s favourite shrub and he is building up a fine collection.

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Naturally what we really enjoyed most of all was seeing the wonderful selection of Birches in their autumn glory. We certainly were not to be disappointed. Jude even gave her favourite Betula a big hug – she must be turning into a tree hugger!

Of course you would be expecting me to mention the Betulas, my favourite family of trees and luckily it is Richards too and he grows alomst 180 different ones and several of his favourites.

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The River Birch below is Betula nigra “Dura Heat”. This is a particularly impressive multi-stemmed specimen and although just a young tree is already showing its peeling bark giving it a shaggy dog look.

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Now just enjoy my photos of a selection of our other favourites.

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What a great day we had sharing Richard’s trees and enjoying his vast reserves of knowledge. We will return in the Spring.

I will just finish with two other trees we found in the second field which Richard is building up into an extension of his arboretum, an unusual Acer, a Cercidyphlum and a black berried Buckthorn, a tree we had never seen before.

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arboreta garden photography ornamental trees and shrubs Shropshire trees

Richard’s Trees

We are lucky to have a good friend who has built up his own arboretum, a personal collection of the trees he loves, Elms, Liquidambers, Oaks, etc etc. But most of all our friend Richard loves Birches so he has built up a huge collection of Betulas from around the world. To get an invitation for a personal tour of Richard’s arboretum was a privilege and an exceptional honour.

So in mid-September we travelled a short distance to Ruyton-XI-Towns just north of Shrewsbury. Richard told us to look out for a lane outside the village and keep going along it until we spotted their yellow farmhouse. A beautiful bright red climbing rose greeted us as we entered their gravel driveway, and we soon received a very warm welcome from Richard and his wife Anne.

While touring the arboretum Richard’s knowledge and love for his trees became obvious to us. He knew the names of every tree and shrub, their botanic name, common name, their place of origin and even the name of the nursery or plantsmen from whom the trees had been sourced. He loved every tree and was proud of them too.

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Even though Richard could tell us the name of every tree he ensured that each was accurately and clearly labeled.

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Although he has collected many different trees his true love is the Betula family. Here is a small selection of this wonderful collection. As regular readers of my blog will know I am mad about Betulas so to be able to get close up to so many different ones from around the world was very special to me.

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But there was more to this arboretum than Birches. Just check out the selection below.

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That is just a small selection of the amazing range of trees to be found at Richard’s arboretum! There are so many delights you feel honoured to visit. To have a friend with his own arboretum is pretty special but to have a friend who also loves Betulas is even better. We have been invited back for another wonderful wander around Richard and Anne’s garden and arboretum in the autumn to see their trees in their autumnal costumes.

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Harold Hillier in Hampshire

We have had the Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire on our bucket list of places to visit for a few years now so we decided that the summer of 2015 was the time to go. We had great expectations! But did it live up to them?

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We arrived in heavy rain so made straight for the cafe and dawdled for even longer than usual over coffees and cake while keeping an eye, a “weather eye”, on what the rain was up to through the windows. We gave up waiting for a lull in the rain so donned waterproofs and wandered into the garden clutching the garden plan that was to get soggier and soggier as the day wore on.

The garden was simply brilliant so took our minds off the weather. When you wait so long to visit a place you feel set for disappointment but no such things here at the Hillier Gardens.

As we expected the trees were the stars. We wandered through the Winter Garden and on through the Acer Dell and stopped frequently to enjoy close up views of the huge range of trees. Within the trees though splashes of herbaceous colours shone through the gloom of the overcast and very wet morning.

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We seem to have the knack of visiting gardens when there are sculpture exhibitions on and it happened to us again here. Sculpture always looks so good against trees and flowers. There was a huge variety of subject, material and style in the selection.

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Spot the metal sculpture of a Little Owl among matching metallic leaved conifers.

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The rain gave way to clouds mixed with sunny periods and we enjoyed the sight of raindrops on foliage. In part two we will continue our wanderings.

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Queenswood Arboretum – Part Three – the Redwoods

As we left the Oak Avenue behind and after we had enjoyed a quick look at the small Betula collection, we made our way slowly back to the car park. The sky began to get darker and drizzle began to fall. In the first shot included here you can see the bright autumn colours of the Birches through the line of huge pines. Many of them were small and still strongly guarded from the gnawing of the resident deer flock. I have also included a photo of one of the excellent, informative labels which is a great feature of this arboretum.

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As the drizzle intensified we found some shelter under the older taller trees. We are not fans of conifers but we found this one fascinating with its long drooping needles. Pinus patula, better known as the Spreading Leaf Pine. Close by the strange but utterly beautiful cerise-flowered Euonymous europaeus glowed in the dull light.

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Felled tree trunks afford the weary wanderer a resting place and wildlife a place to search for food. The cut ends revealed the ages of the trees when they were felled, the number of rings now exposed by the chainsaw give away its secrets.

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We continued to come across interesting Acers such as this Red Snake-Bark Maple, Acer capillipes and we passed many other fascinating specimen trees on our way to the stand of Redwoods.

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We were fascinated by the fruits of the Oriental Hornbeam and the Handkerchief Tree, Davidii involucrata. These two special trees were both fine specimens.

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We followed the path as it dipped beneath the branches of the Handkerchief Tree and found ourselves in a different world, a darker world where light failed to penetrate. This meant that nothing grew beneath these Redwoods, giants of the tree world. We walked on a deep soft carpet of needles. The needles were gingery orange and seemed to glow in the gloom.

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A drainage ditch cut through the Redwoods. It must have recently flooded badly and eroded away soil exposing the roots of trees growing alongside on its banks. Some creative visitors had found a way across by using some ingenuity and creativity – they had built a bridge from branches.

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Below are two pictures showing some unusual wildlife living beneath the Redwoods, on the left a mother bear searching for her youngster climbing a nearby tree and on the right a very rare Tree Hugging Jude the Undergardener.

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After exploring the dark world under the Redwoods we were glad to get back into daylight. Even though drizzle continued to fall and grey skies hung heavy it seemed so much brighter under the deciduous trees. The final Acer we passed looked as if it was on fire. A fitting finale to our day at Queenswood. As I always write when we have discovered a new exciting place to visit, “We will definitely be back!”

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So that is Queenswood, 64 acres of wonderful trees from all over the world. Follow any of its waymarked trails and you will discover such a huge variety of trees, varying in size, growth habit, leaf shape, bark texture with some bearing flowers followed by berries, seeds or nuts. The bird life keeps you entertained too, singing and calling in the tree tops and undergrowth and flitting from tree to tree seeking out this vast array of food. Throughout our walk Ravens cronked overhead in unison with the gentler mewling of Buzzards. Whenever you visit there will be birds to entertain you and trees to delight the eye.