AUTUMN & WINTER AT CLUNY 

Red Squirrels & other mammals The Red Squirrels should be relatively easy to see over the autumn and 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 and walnuts in their shells and sunflower seed. As we go further into winter there is less for them to eat in the garden but in the afternoons 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 speedy stoats and the occasional pine marten. 

Birds 

Not only are the red squirrels well fed but so are the woodland birds. The feeders are regularly frequented throughout the winter by hordes of chaffinches, great, blue and coal tits, goldfinches, siskins, robins, great spotted woodpeckers, dunnocks and robins. Less frequent are long-tailed tits, bramblings, redwing, fieldfare and jays. Other birds found in and around the garden are mistle thrush, jackdaw, wood pigeon, buzzard, sparrowhawk, treecreeper, wren and goldcrest. A relatively recent arrival is the nuthatch more often heard than seen. 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 our 2 massive Wellingtonia or Sequoiadendron giganteum are always dominant but look even more impressive after a fall of snow. Look out for all the different colours and textures of the many different barks in the garden. 

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. 

The end of autumn 

There are still colourful leaves either on the trees or on the ground until mid- November along with fluffy seed heads on the Chinese Ragwort and Ligularia. Remaining well into November are colourful berries on the spindle trees, as well as some of the paler coloured rowan berries and the Himalayan honeysuckle, all important food for birds. 

The start of spring 

Although some may say the garden is asleep over winter, it isn’t really! Early bulbs such as snowdrops and snowflakes are already pushing through the ground. Racemes of flowers are present on the Mahonias and flower buds are present on the early primulas, rhodendrons and hellebores. 

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 around 3 different years of leaf mould. Seed sowing of around 200 different species goes on over the late 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 about which tree to take out next much easier! On wet days seed is put into packets for sale either by post or from the garden in the spring.   As you go around you may see small cloches placed over certain plants of one particular group of Meconopsis. This is to shelter their rosettes from wet and subsequent freezing conditions which can damage the plants. All other 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.   

We hope you have enjoyed your visit during a more unusual time of the year. It would be good to see you again perhaps in a different season.  

JOHN & WENDY & FIONA