“The Garden of the Gillausklause – a natural Permaculture”
by the gardener Edith Weiss
The Gillausklause belongs to the Albrechtsberg bird sanctuary. The garden has a microclimate combining cool air and stored heat. Besides a huge range of birds such as eagles and pied wagtails and a large variety of butterflies, the area surrounding the Gillaus Creek is a habitat for many special creatures.
Water Shrew: a good swimmer, it can dive for up to 20 seconds, catching worms, snails, small fish and frogs
Grass Snake: identified by yellow crescent-shaped spots on its head and its dark grey to black back patterns, it grow up to 150 cm long and preys on fish , frogs, newts and mice. The grass snake spends time basking in sunny places on the hill to warm its blood. The female lays up to 20 eggs in compost, dung heaps or greenery and the eggs hatch through the heat given off by decomposition. Scared of humans, its bite is non-hazardous.
Common Toad: identified by its brown, warty skin, the females are up to 14 cm larger than the males. During winter it burrows in the ground until March. It lives in a radius of 4 km of its spawning ground and the female lays up to 6000 eggs in long spawn strings. Tadpoles are black and about 1 cm long when they hatch. By June/July they are fully developed as young toads. They then live on land preying on insects, snails and worms.
Fire Salamander: with black and yellow pattern, it grows up to 20 cm long and can live for up to 20 years. Its skin secretions cause irritation for its enemies. It is nocturnal.
Black Stork: this bird grows to a height of 95 cm. It is black with a white stomach and legs and a red beak. The black stork hunts frogs, worms, fish and mice. Unlike the white stork, the black variety is a shy woodland inhabitant and very hard to spot. The Gillausklause offers a perfect habitat for the black stork with its pond and surrounding woods. The stork winters in Africa between September and April.
Grey Wagtail: the wagtail grows up to 18 cm tall. It has a grey back, yellow stomach and black patterned wings. It catches insects and their larvae often in flight. The wagtail breeds twice a year and stays even in the winter.
Beautiful Demoiselle: with a body about 4 cm long and a wingspan of 7 cm, the body of the male demoiselle glimmers from metallic blue- turquoise to black. The females, on the other hand, are a dull green-brown shade. The sheltered clearing by the cool creek is a perfect habitat for the Beautiful Demoiselle. With its wide wings it can easily land by the overgrown waterside without being carried away by any strong winds. As the larvae need water with a high oxygen content, its presence serves as an indicator of good water quality.
Crayfish: the good water quality of the Gillaus Creek is also indicated by the fact you can see, although rarely, the nocturnal European crayfish.
Blindworm: this legless lizard with its shimmering copper colouring grows up to 50 cm long. It preys on insects and snails. When in danger, the blindworm can shed its tail.
Squirrel: mostly visible in autumn when the walnuts are ripe.
Dormouse: this mouse-like rodent has grey fur, a bushy tail and big black yes. It feeds on buds, bark, fruit and mushrooms. To accumulate fat for the winter, they feed on fatty foods such as beechnuts and acorns. They live in tree-hollows, nesting boxes and attics. They hibernate from September to May.
Butterflies: the prevalence of feeding plants means many different kinds of butterflies can be seen around the garden of the Gillausklause. Varieties include Brimstone Butterflies, Admiral, Comma Butterfly, Mourning Cloak, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock Butterfly, Swallowtail, Blue Butterflies, Jersey Tiger, Silver Washed Fritillary, Cabbage Butterfly and the Six Spot Burnet Moth.
The flora of the gardens grows along the hillside, on stonewalls and terraces and along paths and open areas near the forest.
Dry stone walls: these offer an excellent setting for hanging gardens. The material already existed on the site and with it, benches, walls and gardens were created.
The stones store heat and, due to the ferns, mosses and periwinkles which grow on them, humidity as well creating a buffer for periods of drought.
In the rock cleavages you can see hiding places and nesting sites for insects, birds, snakes and toads.
During heavy rainfall water speed is reduced and averts erosion. The big carpet of evergreen plays an important role, because the rain needs to leak through at first. The hill is arranged and used in different ways thanks to the terraces. Beside the comfortable seats lie the herb garden, the raspberry hedge, the vegetable and red currant garden, the tomato beds and other small areas for flowers and fruit trees.
The cold winter of the Waldviertel required a careful selection of fruit trees hardy enough to survive the sub-zero conditions. Because of the isolated position, fruit varieties that need no fertilization partner are very successful here. The high humidity of the air encourages fungal infection, which is why the selection of very resistant species was important.
Some of the fruit trees were here in years past, such as the Pippin with the impressive title “Edelrambour von Winnitza“. This robust species originates from the Ukraine and has been known since 1899. Our tree is one of the last examples that exist in the Waldviertel and the Wienerwald.
A “Klosterneuburger Marille”, apricot, grows in the upper garden. It is rather unusual for the Waldviertel but here, in a favored spot, it uses the radiant heat of the surrounding rocks to prosper. The sunny position also favours the grape-vine, which climbs luxuriantly over the pergola.
Nearby a “Rote Ringlott” plum, a Williams-Christ pear and a “Stanzer Zwetschke” damson plum have become victims of browsing damage, because they are a welcome delicacy for rabbits and doe in snowy winters. Hence, the fruit trees receive browsing and fraying protection. The large walnut tree throws fresh shade over the white terrace on hot summer afternoons.
In the vegetable garden, potatoes, pumpkins, rhubarb, strawberries, lettuce, aromatic arugula and onions grow profusely. You can find a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs in the herb garden, one level below. Herbs such as chive, salvia, tarragon, rue, hyssop, chamomile, calendula, hollyhock and mild apple mint all grow here. Herbs are used to guard against pests and vermin in the vegetable gardens.
The verdant, overgrown sections right on the top of the hill on the rocks is dominated by robinias or locusts planted many years ago. Throughout the entire garden wild plants are allowed to blend in: hazel bushes and European spindle trees, blackberry tendrils and elders merge with mullein, chuckling peas, wild marjoram and garlic mustard. You will also find endangered plants, such as the pyramid bugle, the poisonouse daphne and the grape hyacinth.