Visitors walking outside the Visitor Centre en route for Camellia Walk could be easily excused for thinking the wonderful burnt sugar aroma is coming from the café kitchen.
It is in fact the Katsura tree or Cercidiphyllum japonicum f.pendulum; as its leaves turn yellow in autumn they produce a compound called maltol, which makes the whole tree smell of candyfloss. A bowlful of these dried leaves far surpasses synthetic shop-bought potpourri.
With the shorter days, all the deciduous trees in the garden are getting ready for winter - when the light is insufficient for photosynthesis, the green chlorophyll breaks down and is absorbed by the plant, revealing the yellow and orange pigments which have been present in the leaves all summer. In the case of Maples that are known for their vibrant autumn colour, it is the glucose trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis has ceased, with the combination of cool nights and sunlight that cause the leaves to turn this glucose, red.
According to the Woodland Trust, autumn colour is around 14 days later this year. The cold spring and the warm summer we've experienced, have created perfect conditions to allow sugars to build up in leaves that help to create stunning autumn displays. However, as is usually the case in Cornwall, early autumn gales can remove the leaves before they've had the chance to reveal their display! Maybe need to take a drive up to Westonbirt arboretum to see their Japanese Maple groves.