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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 autumn autumn colours colours garden furniture garden seating light ornamental trees and shrubs outdoor sculpture trees woodland woodlands

Queenswood Arboretum – Part Two – the Oaks

Having enjoyed the Autumn Garden we found a sign indicating a footpath to an “Old Orchard” and the “Readers Chair” which naturally took us in the opposite direction to our planned route. Diversions are good for you! Just see what we found by following this one!

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We followed the path beneath tall slender trees and found an orchard of ancient fruit trees.

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When we reached the centre of the old orchard with its sweet scent of rotting apples and fallen leaves we found out what the Reader’s Seat was. It was really a large piece of outdoor sculpture which was also a seat. I imagine the wood it was constructed from was oak as it was weathering to the most beautiful and palest of silver. The carvings were so beautifully sculpted into each face of the uprights which made up the canopy over the circle of seats.

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We sat a while appreciating the craftsmanship of the seat with its carvings before exploring further the old orchard itself.

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But where we we headed before the wooden sign post persuaded us to search for the Old Orchard and Reader’s Seat? We were off to find the Oak Avenue. We expected this to be a shaded walk between tow tall rows of ancient native oaks. How wrong we were! What we actually found was a small field with two rows of oaks from all over the world. Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, thin ones and even a shrub like one. There seemed to be an Oak from every corner of the world. But to get there we wandered through Cotterill’s Folly where huge Beech trees towered over the path and covered that path with their waxy tough leaves.

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Our first oak surprise was this narrow-leaved tree with slightly pendulous branches, aptly called the Willow-leaved Oak. Its foliage looked so fresh and full of vitality, which was in stark contrast to the Armenian Oak we looked at next. This oak had large leathery leaves already coloured for autumn.

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Our next oak was a small tree with leaves like those of a Sweet Chestnut.

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One thing that all oaks attract is lichen and we soon found this stunning glaucous example shaped just like stags antlers.

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Our next Oak looked just like an Olive tree – it was just the right size and shape with glaucous leaves just like those of an Olive. But when we got closer and noticed its bark we knew straight away it was some sort of a Cork Oak. The label informed us that it was a Quercus variabilis, a Chinese Cork Oak.

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We were so surprised to see the next of our Oaks as it was just four or five feet tall, a small shrub rather than a majestic old tree. Nuttall’s Oak, Quercus texana surprised us again when we noticed its beautifully shaped leaves, somewhat reminiscent of a Liquidamber.

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Close by we found another shrubby Oak but this one had a different growth habit. It was a solid looking bush with simple leathery foliage. This was a Bamboo Leaved Oak – very well named.

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This old Cork Oak had died but in death presented itself as a piece of textured sculpture. But it did frame another autumn coloured Oak on the far side of the green area.

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This neat small specimen on the left was an Algerian Oak and the equally neat one on the right was a Shumard’s Oak.

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After enjoying discovering so many different oaks most of them new to us, we began to make our way back to the car park. We passed a Wild Service Tree one of our rarest native trees before moving on through a little plantation of Betulas and made our way towards a stand of Redwoods.

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To share this last leg of our wander around Queenswood Arboretum just look at the third post in this series.