BRITAIN IN BLOOM. Great Britain's gardens are at their best in spring and early summer. But visitors shouldn't short change autumn. Dozens of the United Kingdom's gardens are open to visitors year-round, and many of those have seasonal blooms and hues that are spectacular in the fall. A free map available from the British Tourist Authority identifies the country's horticultural treasures. Request it by calling 1-877-899-8391 or visit the Web at www.travelbritain.org/gardens. The publication lists 100 of the finest gardens in the country ranging from those in the Scottish Highlands to ones on the Channel Islands near the coast of France.
Scotland is especially renowned for its blaze of autumn colors. The gardens at Crathes Castle near Aberdeen surround a 16th century house. Its walled garden features herbaceous borders and unusual plants. Some of its great hew hedges date from 1702.
In southwest England, gardens in the counties of Devon and Cornwall thrive because of the jet stream. Cotehele, near Saltash on Devon's south coast, has a walled garden, courtyards and terraces. The "lost" gardens of Heligan, near St. Austell, Cornwall, were restored in the 1990s and are now a lush subtropical jungle.
Wallington Garden in northeast England near the town of Morpeth has 100 acres of lawns, lakes and woodland. Its walled garden has many unusual plants and shrubs.
The arboretum in Castlewellan in Northern Ireland has one of Europe's outstanding collections of trees and shrubs including many specimens thought to be the oldest in civilization.