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Cricklepit Garden Group: Winter

Posted: Tuesday 31st January 2017 by CricklepitGardenGroup

Gardening volunteers at Devon Wildlife TrustCricklepit Mill Garden Group

Cricklepit Garden Group introduce their first quarterly blog which will follow the seasons of the year, this quarter it's winter.

Welcome to the first quarterly blog by Devon Wildlife Trust’s volunteer group who look after the RHS award winning wildlife garden at the Trust’s headquarters at Cricklepit Mill in Exeter.

The theme for this blog is winter, for many gardens this is the downtime, with summer/autumn flowering perennials cut back and dormant. However, some of the best gardens have seasonal interest all year round and this does not necessarily have to be flowers, trees and shrubs such as Dogwood (Cornus alba), Common Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) and Barberry (Berberis) can provide colour during the winter period.

Frosty heather at Cricklepit Mill

The Garden Group have been keen to adopt this approach and have just planted up a winter interest border in the wildlife garden, which includes a new conservation mix hedge and stand-alone native trees and shrubs, with two-year old whips planted, and whilst small they will stand a better chance of surviving and establishing in what is a thin and stony soil in this part of the garden than older more mature specimen.

Within the wildlife garden at Cricklepit you will also find winter flowering heather (Erica carnea) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Purpus Honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii). If you do like your perennials then you could plant winter aconite (Eranthus hyemalis) with bright yellow flowers in late winter, or sweet violet (Viola odorata) with violet or white flowers in late winter and early spring.

Feed wild birds

Wildlife pond at Cricklepit MillDuring this cold period it is important to feed wild birds, we do so in the wildlife garden with sunflower hearts and suet balls supplied by the Wildlife Trusts’ supporter Vine House Farm. Like us humans wild bird’s eating habits have changed over the years, peanuts and niger seeds are out and sunflower hearts and fat balls and suet blocks are in. It is also important to provide them with water, we are lucky at Cricklepit with the Leat running through the site as a natural water supply. However, in most gardens it will need some sort of shallow bowl with the water regularly changed and the bowl cleaned to avoid the build-up of bacteria.

Late winter is the time to cut down last year’s growth of ornamental grasses, we have ornamental grasses in the “Sound” sensory bed within the wildlife garden. This bed is one of four, the others being based on the senses of “Smell”, “Sight” and “Touch”. The beds were planted out in June 2014 and have flourished ever since and now form an established part of the wildlife garden.

Workwise the Garden Group are busy developing a new wildlife pond and bog garden within the wildlife garden which will both be planted up with native British plants. More on this in the next blog in the Spring.

Cricklepit Garden Group

Interested in volunteering?

If you feel inspired by the Cricklepit Garden Group and want to involved in volunteering, we have lots of fantastic opportunities! From being part of a local group or volunteering at your local reserve, to helping out in the office or supporting at events, there's something for everyone. 

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