Autumn highlights at Benmore Botanic Garden

The Pond in autumn, Benmore

Late autumn and winter provide a lot of interest at Benmore. The flare of autumn colour is followed by the delicate blooms of precocious rhododendrons, magnolias and cherries. But best of all in the depths of winter are the more permanent features of trees and shrubs - structure, details of bark and an infinite variety of evergreen foliage. Then there is the scenery too, of which the trees are such an important part, which changes suddenly according to the weather - misty one moment then clear the next. 

The main areas to enjoy autumn colour are the Younger Memorial Walk, approaches to Benmore House and borders around the pond and Formal Garden where the deciduous azaleas are especially effective, showing every autumnal shade imaginable.

Autumn at Benmore Botanic Garden

The witch hazel family makes a valuable contribution too, the witch hazels themselves mostly turning yellow, while the fothergillas add bright red and gold hues. The Persian ironwood, Parrotia persica - a witch hazel relative despite its beech-like leaves - excels with deep reds.

Equally brilliant are photinia, which belongs to the rose family and enkianthus, of which Benmore has some fine examples.

Benmore also has some remarkable collections of cotoneasters, with about 25 species and a range of different forms. Many of the low-growing kinds give colour to the Formal Garden in the autumn, but the tall ones, such as the splendid specimen of Cotoneaster frigidus on the Wild Bank, which when seen against a blue sky, often bring visitors to a halt. 

A particularly good view of autumn colour may be had by walking up to the frog pond on the upper hill path. There is a panorama of the Formal Garden, and to the right, a view in the direction of the Pond through magnificent conifers underplanted with deciduous azaleas and Japanese maples.

Benmore is renowned for its trees but the most unforgettable have to be the Sierra redwoods or wellingtonias which line The Avenue. The Sierra redwood is the largest tree in the world and can reach about 300ft in height and weigh 6,000 tons. Benmore's coastal situation and generous rainfall create some of the best growing conditions in Britain for redwoods. When standing beneath these tremendous trees it is awe-inspiring to realise they are only around half the height of their wild relatives.

Other trees worth seeing are the monkey puzzles on Benmore House Lawn, the Chinese firs and the largest Faber fir (Abies fabri) in Britain which measures 92 ft in height. 

Benmore has a magic of its own all the year round and there will be something to delight the visitor even in the depth of winter.

Read more about Spring and Summer highlights at Benmore 

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The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)