LATE 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 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 weasels

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 two of which spend much of their time caching sunflower seed!

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.

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. 

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 destroy 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.