Castle Howard, Historic House North Yorkshire
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Tree of the Month - Japanese Maple
By Maria Ellis  //  Tue 3rd October 2017
Trees, Nature, Tree Nursery
I don’t think I can be alone in declaring that autumn is my favourite season. Winter, spring and summer may have their charms but autumn has a certain magic that can captivate and enchant the soul. It is crisp sunny afternoons, clear blue skies and a landscape bathed in a steady golden glow as the sun begins to set on another year. High summer leaves a quiet stillness in its wake, broken only by the crunch of leaves underfoot, the rustle and bustle of the squirrel’s tail as it hurries to and from its winter stores and the hiss and crackle of the first log fires. It is time to dig out those woolly jumpers and wellington boots for a peaceful autumn walk, stopping to pick wild blackberries and autumn raspberries on the way – the last of this year’s hedgerow harvests.

We’re still eating al fresco but blankets are now securely wrapped around shoulders and knees and it’s time to reach for the tin of cocoa at the back of the cupboard and warm your hands round your favourite mug.  Make sure to have some ready for when the children return laden with conkers to be polished and strung. All these things make autumn my favourite time of year but most of all it is the astonishing displays of fiery leaves, red, amber and gold that make the next couple of months even more special.

There are many different trees that look beautiful at this time of year but I’ve picked one that can be enjoyed even in a teeny tiny garden like mine. The Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, is a graceful and serene little tree and an iconic part of Japanese gardens. It sits perfectly in borders providing a delicate waterfall of bright purple foliage and is equally happy in pots, adding colour and interest to patios. As the tree grows very slowly it is ideal for smaller gardens and won’t outgrow its plot for many years. Though modest in stature the Japanese maple provides a real show in autumn as its deep purple leaves change to a vivid crimson providing a fiery spark in the fading summer light. So beautiful is this tree considered that thousands of people in Japan will hunt out these maples to catch a glimpse of their wonderful hues.

The practice of viewing the autumn colours is called momiji-gari and is very similar to the famous cherry blossom festival ‘hanami’. People flock to places like the Tofukuji Temple in Kyoto or Okutama in Tokyo to see the maples in their finest hour as they become beacons of burning red. Theses maples form just a part of large swathes of forest that cover Japan and when the temperature drops quickly in the autumn months it provides the perfect conditions for a dramatic colour change. With sights like these to see it is no wonder that momiji-gari is so popular. It is wonderful celebration of nature and a way of finding joy in the steady cycle of the seasons.

If you fancy a little momiji-gari, or autumn colour viewing, yourself then Castle Howard’s extensive park and woodland offer some incredible sights. Here are my Top 3 Spots:

  1. Ray Wood. Make sure you visit Ray Wood (just next to the House!) on your next visit. It’s huge variety of species make for a stunning array of colours. Hunt down the Acer palmatum ‘osakazuki’ tree at the woods centre for a spectacular show of deep red foliage.
  2. Exclamation Gates. For sweeping views across the whole of the Estate take a ramble up the footpath beginning at the St John the Evangelist Church in the little village of Welburn. When you reach the grand stone gates at the top of the field turn back for a breathtaking panorama of the Howardian Hills. The Estate woodlands will be alive with colour and you’ll be able to glimpse the house, pyramid and mausoleum dotted through the landscape.
  3. Beech Avenue. Beech trees turn an incredible burnt orange in the autumn and the avenue that lines the road from the 7th Earl’s Monument to Castle Howard is a fine example. Just don’t let the brilliance of the beech trees distract you from the road!


If you’re looking to add some autumn sparkle to your garden, enquire at our tree nursery today on 01653 648646.

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