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Autumn at Kew is a photographer’s delight

Imogen Dent
20 June 2013
Blog team: 
For amateurs and pros alike, Kew is the best place for snapping pics this autumn!

Autumn at Kew

Kew Gardens in autumn must be one of the most photogenic spots in London. With characteristic morning and evening mists, and earlier sunsets giving richly coloured skies towards the end of day, autumn must have some of the loveliest natural light of any season. Here at Kew, leaves and fruits are glowing, and fairy-like seed heads dance in the oblique autumn sun.

Golden autumn leaves of the maidenhair tree, Gingko biloba, at Kew Gardens

Vibrant colour...

At almost any time from mid-September to early November you can hope to see autumnal colours somewhere in the Gardens. Asian maples and North American liquidambars and vines turn scarlet, and European species such as cherry trees and the graceful southern beeches from Australasia fade to glorious gold. Kew’s arboretum contains trees from all over the world, so the fall colour here is a global spectacle.

Vines on the terrace of the Pavilion Restaurant at Kew Gardens in their autumn foliage colours of scarlet and acid yellow

...and poetic vistas

Views open out as the leaves start to fall, and it’s one of the best times to take in the long vistas and panoramas. The autumn leaf-fall also opens up impressive views from the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, so make sure to climb to the top, and stroll through the tree canopy and take in the panorama of west London from 18 metres up.

For even more striking shots, don’t forget that you’ll find much of the autumn colour redoubled if you head to the Lake or the Palm House Pond for the reflections. Wildlife enthusiasts may like to know that you can often see migrant wildfowl on the Lake, as well as the resident population of swans and other water birds. Elsewhere, squirrels, jays and crows are collecting their stores of food for the winter, and even the resident peacocks are more approachable now the breeding season has passed.


Autumnal reflections in the waters of Kew's extensive Lake

Striking textures of autumn

For the happy owner of a macro lens, Kew Gardens offers a feast of textures and patterns. Look down as you walk, for rich mats of fallen leaves, nuts and beech-mast. Along the Broad Walk and Pagoda Vista you’ll find glossy brown and black conkers, sweet chestnuts and acorns on the ground. The crab apple trees behind the Waterlily House and by Victoria Gate café terrace are usually laden with scarlet fruits, and don’t miss the more unusual fruits of the sausage tree near Victoria Gate and the extraordinary osage oranges.

The weird fruits of the osage orange, Maclura pomifera, at Kew Gardens 

Hidden treasures

Make sure to take in the Grass Garden, one of our hidden gems, where delicate grass seed heads of every form and colour shimmer in the oblique autumn sunshine. This small formal garden is packed with the rich textures and elegant forms of dozens of decorative grasses, from the vibrant red of Japanese blood grass to the silver-white heads of the giant pampas grass.

Delicate seed heads of Miscanthus grass in autumn

The nearby Duke’s Garden is a wonderful spot for floral colour, with stunning plantings of sneezeweeds, dahlias and sedums, salvias, penstemons and achilleas, all of them flowering until the first frosts. The striking tropical borders, too, are at the height of their growth in late summer.

All over the Gardens at this time of year you can see autumn-flowering bulbs like Cyclamen hederifolium, Colchicums and autumn crocus. They spring up among the limestone boulders of the Rock Garden and blossom in swathes along Holly Walk and beneath the pleached hornbeam alley behind Kew Palace.

For some more unusual flowers, head to the Davies Alpine House where the displays are changed regularly to showcase whatever is at its best; expect crimson gladioli from South Africa and golden Sternbergia lutea and dainty nerines as the autumn moves on, as well as the giant Madeiran squill and other fascinating plants from mountain regions worldwide.

A dramatic close-up of the striking lilac flower spikes of the giant Madeiran scilla, Scilla madeirensis, in the Davies Alpine House

Photo competition exhibition

As well as flowers, you can be inspired by award-winning images from International Garden Photographer of the Year 2013. From 5 October through 3 November Kew Gardens will be hosting an exhibition of the winners and shortlisted entrants to the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. These eye-catching prints will be on display in the Nash Conservatory.

All in all, the one thing you mustn't forget on an autumn visit to Kew Gardens is a camera!

- Imogen -


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