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, sunflower seeds and a few walnuts. 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. You may be lucky enough to see a stoat in its ermine coat. Pine marten, fox and badger all pass through the garden but usually during the night!


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 quiet chattering family flocks or seen passing through the garden on regular routes along with other tit species, treecreepers and goldcrests. Jays, nuthatches, 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!


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.


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.  The majority of planting has been from 1950 and the size of some of the trees in nearly 70 years is quite amazing however as a result of Storm Arwen in November 2021, we lost a number of precious trees some up to 200 years old. It took a great deal of help from family, friends and experts in a number of fields to help “repair” the garden as well as contributions to a GoFundMe. Since late March we have planted a good number of young trees and shrubs and underplanted with Himalayan poppies, primulas and other herbaceous perennials. You will notice some of the new planting in the middle area of the garden and also some of the fallen trees. The old walnut seen between Nos 12 & 13 was a particularly sad loss but we have discovered the first ever seedling from the tree. The remaining spike is now providing a natural climbing frame for clematis.


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. Seed sowing of around 200 different mainly herbaceous 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. However, we hope not to have a repeat of Storm Arwen. On wet days seed is put into packets for sale.  The majority of plants within the garden 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. We do not ask for entrance money until mid-February but we would welcome a donation for squirrel and bird food. Thank you very much.

Wendy, John & Fiona