AUTUMN & WINTER AT CLUNY

Red Squirrels & other mammals

The Red Squirrels should be relatively easy to see over the winter months. In the morning they are very active around the feeders close to the car park and at the large Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum at No 5). We supply them with peanuts, hazelnuts in their shells and pine nuts. As we go further into winter there is less for them to eat in the garden but they can frequently be seen digging up the bits and pieces they buried a few weeks previously! Away from the feeders, stopping, listening and quietly watching usually results in a squirrel being seen. Other mammals present in the garden are brown hare and speedy stoats often seen in the vicinity of No 5.

Winter Birds

Due to both the amount of food supplied to the birds and the variety of more natural food in the garden, there are always plenty of birds around. Long-tailed tits are regularly seen at the fat feeders arriving in chattering family flocks or seen passing through the garden on regular routes along with other tit species, treecreepers and goldcrests. Jays, Great spotted woodpeckers, sparrowhawks and buzzards are seen or heard virtually daily and during November and December redwings and fieldfares, winter visitors from Scandinavia come to Cluny to feed on the different varieties of rowans along with local blackbirds and mistle thrushes. Perhaps this year we might have the stunning Waxwing visiting! We put out apples on the lawn for the birds but the squirrels and even the hares also enjoy them.

Cluny’s Trees

Visitors often say that it is at this time of year when the trees, particularly the conifers, stand out in the garden. Needless to say the Redwoods or Sequoiadendron giganteum are always dominant but look even more impressive after a fall of snow. It is also good to get an impression of the size of some of the older deciduous trees dating from the early to mid-1800s. However the majority of planting has been from 1950 and the size of some of the trees in nearly 70 years is quite amazing.

Cardiocrinum giganteum (Giant Himalayan Lilies)

The impressive looking dead stalks in the garden are the seed heads remaining from the flowering stalks of Giant Himalayan lilies which flowered in June-July. The pods ripen in December/January and each capsule begins to open gradually releasing seed when there is a breeze. The seed spreads around the garden but it will be about 7 years before a flowering sized bulb is produced. The stalks provide a different architectural interest to the garden throughout the year and visitors are always amazed that this plant comes from a bulb.

Winter Work

The big autumn job of leaf collecting lasts for around a month from mid-November to mid-December so you will see various containers around the garden holding 3 different years of leaf mould from roughly 2015, 2016 & 2017. Seed sowing of around 200 different species goes on over the autumn & winter. There is always plenty of cutting back and thinning out of branches to be done in a woodland garden. Some dead or dying wood is retained for the benefit of invertebrates and bird-life. Occasionally winter weather will bring down trees and large branches making our life more difficult but making the decision of which tree to take out next much easier! On wet days seed is put into packets for sale.  The majority of plants are left to the vagaries of nature and the weather although most have a covering of leaves to protect them and sometimes snow of course. On mild days, the long process of cleaning up of beds will begin in time for spring.