MARCH AT CLUNY


It has been quite a hard and long winter, more like winters used to be. In general things are further behind than they have been in recent springs however after a few warm days it will hopefully all change. Spring will certainly be very welcome this year!

BULBS

This month and next the garden comes alive with flowering bulbs. Early in the month a number of different species and hybrid snowdrops, Galanthus flower throughout the garden along with their near relative, snowflakes Leucojum vernum. There are 2 species of beautiful butter yellow winter aconites Eranthis and the first miniature daffodils Narcissus minor can be seen growing at No 2 and N. cyclamineus between 17 & 18. There are different Crocus along with Cyclamen, Scilla & Muscari especially in the top area of the garden. Please also look on the slope behind the house where a number of bulbs are naturalising. Towards the end of March, the first Trilliums & Fritillaries should be in flower. Look out for white T. ovatum, usually the first to show especially in the bed opposite the car park and T. chloropetalum var giganteum, a very large Trillium up to 40cm with highly mottled leaves. The first Dog’s Tooth Violets, Erythronium revolutum, should be in flower nearer the end March. The large stalks (some over 3 metres) of last year’s seed heads of Cardiocrinum giganteum, the Giant Himalayan Lily, can still be seen in position in the top area of the garden. They look like similar to Venus Fly Traps!

HELLEBORES

The Stinking hellebore or Dungwort Helleborus foetidus, grows prolifically throughout the top half of the garden and has been flowering since late January. The Lenten rose Helleborus orientalis and their subspecies have a large range of flower colour from almost pure white, to pink, to red and some are highly spotted. All are very beautiful, lasting many weeks to be followed by attractive seed heads. There are other species of hellebore to be found in the garden including H. purpurescens and argutifolius.

PRIMULAS

Cluny is famed for its Asiatic primula collection. Amongst the first to flower is the pale blue-pink Primula hoffmaniana with the unusual feature of propagating by runners with next year’s flowering plants on the end of each runner. There is a large carpet of it below the viewing platform on the lawn and below the path at No 19. Towards the end of the month rich purple P. bracteosa, pinky-purple P. gracilipes, yellow P. strumosa and the various blues of P. griffithii will all be coming into flower.

TREES & SHRUBS

Now, before the leaves come onto the trees, is the time to appreciate many of Cluny’s evergreen trees and shrubs and also to be aware of the structure of the garden. The first rhododendrons flower in March but as we can still suffer from severe frosts at this time of year, the flowers can be badly damaged. At the far end of the lawn, the Cornelian cherry Cornus mas with its umbels of yellow flowers is in flower for many weeks. Wonderfully scented evergreen Mahonia is found in different places in the garden. A large one is on the left between Nos. 30 & 31. Its bright yellow flowers contrasting with the dark green sharply toothed leaves. The first Daphnes begin to flower, particularly D. mezereum and D. laureola the former with pink/purple scented flowers, the latter with yellow-green slightly scented flowers. Another highly scented low growing shrub with tiny white flowers is Sarcococca hookeriana (sweet box), not easily seen but certainly smelled!

HERBACEOUS PLANTS

Around Nos. 18,19 & 20, there is a large spreading carpet of Pulmonaria or Lungwort with flowers of various hues of purple and blue, and varied amounts of leaf spotting. Dotted throughout the garden are clumps of white/cream Cardamine enneaphylla (nine leaved toothwort) and purple Cardamine pentaphyllos (showy toothwort) rhizomatous perennials from cooler parts of southern Europe. Another European woodland genus very slowly increasing in the garden is Hepatica related to Anemone. The various species have delicate and beautiful little, white, purple or blue flowers. 

WILDLIFE

You should easily see one of our resident Red Squirrels. They can regularly be found feeding on the bird feeders around the car park area and at this time of year heard running up and down the trees. Please speak to one of us if you have not been lucky enough to see one. Going quietly around the garden can be very rewarding. There are plenty of garden birds especially on the feeders including various tits as well as a party of Long-tailed Tits, Siskins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Blackbirds and Robins. The Great-spotted Woodpeckers can be heard drumming especially in the top area of the garden while Mistle and Song Thrushes, Great and Coal Tits will be singing their hearts out on mild days. Look and listen for Buzzards mewing overhead as well as “cronking ravens” or perhaps even a Sparrowhawk. Treecreepers and bullfinches are resident and often very visible while Jackdaws have been guarding their chimney nest sites all winter. A recent new addition has been Nuthatch and we hope that they might breed in the garden this year. There are two resident Brown Hares having little nibbles where they perhaps shouldn’t. Towards the end of the month we hope to see signs of toads and frogs in the garden.

MARCH JOBS

We have path repairs to do, bark and gravel to spread and wood to transport up from the bottom half of the garden. Any open spaces are being planted up with herbaceous plants such as primulas or meconopsis, and young trees or shrubs. We are clearing away dead plant material from the beds and covering them with a layer of 2 to 3 year old leaf mould to suppress weeds and provide nutrients. Meanwhile in the potting-room, we are re-potting and splitting up herbaceous plants for sale. 


Rhododendron
Rhododendron