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Autumn into Winter at The Lost Gardens

As the presence of autumn deepens and sometimes feels as though it is morphing into winter, the gardens take on a new phase. A phase of golden leaves dazzling the autumn skyline, fading in fragility as the winds blow until they scatter the pathways and garden beds with the last of their gold.  A phase with bare branches, as the green curtain of the summer months is dropped to the ground, making the delight of birdsong all the more prevalent and enjoyable. The bare bones of the garden are beginning to show, it is now easy to marvel at the clever and brilliant structure of the Productive Gardens. The walled exterior providing a cocoon around their interior. Offering the plants of the winter months a better chance against the strong winds in Heligan’s almost coastal location.

The team are hard at work replenishing all that has been taken from the soil over the past season. Soil renewal in the form of mulching and double digging are a must to ensure the soil can sustain future growth. After all, soil is the source of all life, it feeds the plants we grow which in turn feed us and feeds our animals.  The final harvests of current crops are being made and plans are underway for next years cropping schedules.  Sweet Williams and Wallflowers that usually frame the Apple Arch have already been planted, as have the first batch of broad beans for a new season.

Elsewhere in the gardens, sensitive pruning of our iconic and historic Rhododendrons and Camellias is now underway. This involves removing a lot of deadwood to increase air flow and light to those branches still thriving.

Another autumn task, and a mightily rewarding one, is lawn maintenance. How remarkably resilient grass is! After a season of dramatic weather boasting a couple of snow coverings and then a prolonged period of scorching, the grass is not fairing too badly. After a bit of tender loving care and rest, the grass is greener than ever and ready to face whatever this winter throws at it.

The Jungle will be seeing a clearing of over enthusiastic bamboos, weeds and brambles, as well as the final stages of work to the new boardwalk path at Top Pond. You may remember we mentioned this in earlier garden updates but in case you missed this, the new boardwalk path has been cleared to the right of top pond to make way for a new pathway. This provides space and opportunity for new planting and with the recent gardeners’ trip to the Isles of Scilly, enthusiasm and inspiration is flowing. Tresco Abbey Gardens very kindly gifted us with some rare and unusual plants to bring back and try out within the Jungle. These plants will test the boundaries of what we can grow here in our unique Jungle microclimate. Exciting times are ahead!

Things are starting to quieten down wildlife wise. Foxes in the estate are now foraging alone and the badgers are leaving their setts less and less. Most insects are now overwintering in their pupae stage or are in winter hibernation. 

The feeders behind the Hide are becoming busier and busier with finches, tits and nuthatches as the temperature drops. Now’s a really good time to head down to the Hide to sit, watch and enjoy the birdlife. Jays are also busy around the estate gathering acorns, you will hear them squawk before seeing them, so keep your eyes peeled.

We are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of migratory birds such as, redwing and fieldfare, which tend to gather in the Poultry Orchard and Lantavy Field. Now that winter is almost here, they should arrive soon!

Our resident Kingfisher has returned, but she isn’t the only one. At one stage earlier this month, not one, but two females were spotted fighting it out for territory. A proud moment for all here, as this signals that Heligan is deemed as a perfect home for these Kingfishers, we wonder which one will be triumphant?

There is an abundance of fungi growing in low lit damp areas and many types of fungi have been spotted all over the Estate. We are keeping a regular photographic update of the fungi we are seeing on social media, so for all fungi lovers out there, tune in and enjoy!