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Gardens in the south east unveil plans for guided tours of woodlands and lakes this Autumn

Scientists are predicting that stressed trees will produce a fantastic display of colour for 2017.

Trees in the south east, in particular, experienced stressful growing conditions earlier in the year including a drought in April and the prolonged heat in May and June. The drought in April was the driest on record and was followed by temperatures varying by 10 -15 degrees centigrade on a weekly basis throughout June.

Dr Glynn Percival Tree Physiologist at Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory and the University of Reading explains why these conditions produce colour: “As autumn colour is basically the chlorophyll (green pigment) breakdown to reveal the other pigments present (yellow, orange, red etc.) then I would expect some quite spectacular autumn colour this year as these other coloured pigments are what we call accessory pigments and produced by the plant in response to stress….which we have had lots of from a trees point of view.”

William Dyson, curator at Great Comp Garden in Sevenoaks has welcomed record numbers of visitors during the Autumn in the last few years following stressful growing conditions for trees. He is expecting a fantastic display this year in the 7 acre garden and said: “it’s interesting to hear the tree scientists observations and I’m sure we can look forward to colour this year from Cercidyphyllum, Quercus, Liquidamber, Nyssa and our Ginkgo’s.”

Hever Castle & Gardens in Edendbridge in Kent have made plans to embrace this planned display of colour by offering visitors their first-ever guided tours of the lake.

Neil Miller, head gardener at Hever said: “If we listen to the experts then we are due for a once in a lifetime display of Autumn colour this year. It certainly was dry in late spring and the sunny weather we’ve experienced this summer will have concentrated the sugar in the leaves which speeds up the appearance of red hues so the tree collection planted by William Waldorf at the turn of the 20th century will be suitably impressive. We want visitors to enjoy the spectacle as the rich yellow, red and orange leaves of beech mingle with liquidambars, tulip trees and Japanese maples, all contributing to an explosion of colour.”

Neill Miller added: “There’s much to see in the lake land area of the Garden including the new Monet bridge and this will be the first year we will take visitors on guided tours. We very much want the visitors to set the agenda and let us know where they want to go and what they want to see. We will be armed with our fungi identification sheets and will be on the look out for the fantastic wildlife that have made the lake area their home.”

Visitors are also welcome to take their own self-guided tours with the help of an Autumn Colour Trail. The Trail will encourage visitors to look out for trees of note and interest within the grounds, including some of the Scots Pines beside the lake which were brought to the Garden from nearby Ashdown Forest by former owner William Waldorf Astor during the creation of the Garden in 1904 -1908.

The Scots pines are particularly pertinent to Hever Castle coming as they did from the site where Henry VIII first laid eyes on Hever’s most famous former resident Anne Boleyn. It is said that Henry was out hunting boar in the Ashdown Forest when he first met Anne Boleyn in area of Scots Pines, which henceforth became known as ‘Royal Standing’.

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