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My Wildlife Allotment June 2019

It is still very dry here and watering now becomes the main task, replacing more enjoyable activities such as planting and sowing. With the increasingly dry weather we seem to be getting here now it becomes apparent which plants cope well with dry soil and which plants are suffering. Most Rudbeckia species for example don't seem to be well adapted to drought and need a lot of watering to keep them looking good. Rudbeckia laciniata and Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii do cope a bit better than Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ which does not do well at all in my dry soil. The only Rudbeckia which actually looks alright on my allotment at the moment is Rudbeckia triloba. Contrary to common believe that Echinacea is fairly drought resistant, I can only say this about Echinacea pallida which copes quite well so far. In contrast, Echinacea purpurea does not like dry soil at all and needs regular watering to keep it happy. Poor Physostegia virginiana, which in wetter years grows like a weed, is very unhappy and I would probably have lost it already without regular watering. Also suffering is Helenium autumnale which is still very small. Most of my other plants such as Papaver orientale, Echinops, Eryngium, Dianthus, Kniphofia, Stachys bizantina, Inula, verbascums, alliums and most of the ornamental grasses still seem to be happy and don't need much watering.


The old allotment with white verbascums
and Stipa gigantea flowering


Stachys byzantina and Euphorbia coralloides
flowering on the half plot

Kniphofia citirina looking good
in the prairie planting on the new allotment

The steppe plantings are doing well and look quite pretty now with the grasses Festuca glauca and F. amethystina in full flower. Scattered between the grasses are plants such as Aster tongolensis, Penstemon hirsutus, Digitalis lutea, Dianthus deltoides, D. knappii, D. carthusianorum, Origanum vulgare, Armeria maritima, Erigeron karvinskianus and Phlomis tuberosa. Most of these plants cope well without watering but the Aster looked so unhappy in the dry and warm weather that I started watering it now as well.


Armeria, Pulsatilla, Erigeron and Festuca
in one of the steppe plantings

Aster tongolensis 'Wartburgstern'

Phlomis tuberosa is finally flowering this year

Euphorbia coralloides, grown from seed, looks really good now, providing some splashes of acid-yellow colour to the still mainly green allotment. The plants are very easy-going, don't need much watering and flower for a long time. Another easy-going but quite spectacular plant when in flower is Stipa gigantea. A tall but airy grass which is very tactile as well. It also looks great with the sun behind it lighting up the oat-like flower heads. Sisyrinchium striatum self-seeds on my allotment to the point where I have to remove seedlings. But I always leave some plants to grow which, together with other self-seeders such as Phacelia tanacetifolia and Eschscholzia californica, provide some pretty colour combinations.


Euphorbia coralloides
adds splashes of acid-yellow colour to the allotment

Stipa gigantea,
here flowering with alliums and verbascums

Sisyrinchium striatum looks good
with Phacelia and Eschscholzia californica

Marrubium supinum (horehound) with its soft velvety leaves and whirls of purple flowers looks very pretty at the moment and does not need any additional watering at all. Bumblebees love the flowers as they produce a lot of nectar. I seem to have at least one nest of buff-tailed bumblebees near my allotment as there are so many of them visiting the horehound flowers from the early morning hours right into the evening.


Marrubium supinum, a great plant for dry soil

Bumblebees love the nectar-rich flowers
of Marrubium supinum

A buff-tailed bumblebee
is drinking nectar from horehound flowers

Yellow Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’ and purple Allium hollandicum provide a pretty colour contrast which looks even more colourful with red Papaver orientale thrown into the mix. Veronica teucrium always flowers in abundance with an incredible vivid blue colour which stands out from the surrounding green. When not in flower the plants are easily overlooked with nondescript hummocks of small dark-green leaves but when in flower it is a spectacular plant. Pulsatilla vulgaris has long finished flowering but the showy, silky seed heads look good for months. I also had a lot of success with sowing the seeds of Pulsatilla fresh, straight after ripening. If sown fresh the seeds have not developed a dormancy yet and germination rate is nearly 100% with no vernalisation treatment needed.


Geum ‘Lady Stratheden’ and Allium hollandicum
look great with red Papaver orientale

The brilliant blue flowers of Veronica teucrium

Pulsatilla seed heads with Festuca glauca
and Campanula rotundifolia

One of my favourite plants at this time of year is Papaver orientale, especially the one with red flowers. The white-flowered variety seems to do less well on my allotment. I find it very exciting when the huge silky-satin flowers, which seem to glow even in dull weather, are finally opening at the end of May. The flowers produce no nectar but a huge amount of protein-rich pollen which bumblebees love. When walking past I can often see several bees in one flower, busily walking around and emitting a buzzing sound which helps to dislodge the pollen. Their pollen baskets are packed with the dark-purple pollen which looks quite funny, like baggy trousers. Papaver orientale pretty much looks after itself, needs no watering, staking or any other maintenance apart from removing yellowing leaves in mid-summer.


Bumblebees love Papaver orientale flowers

A bumblebee landing
in one of the huge poppy flowers

This buff-tailed bumblebee
has collected lots of pollen

The wildlife pond is doing very well and I have spotted many different animals already such as pond skaters, damselflies, backswimmers, frogs and newts. During a recent pond-dipping session I even found some newtlets which was very exciting. The bog garden next to the wildlife pond looks very colourful at the moment with a sea of Lychnis flos-cuculi (ragged-robin) still flowering. Most of the flowers are pink but I have spotted a few white flowers as well which look very pretty. I have also planted some Iris sibirica in the bog garden which is flowering as well. The vivid-blue flowers with their delicate markings look good with the pink of the ragged-robin.


The wildlife pond is home to many different animals
such as newts and frogs

The white ragged-robin flowers
growing between the pink flowers look pretty

Iris sibirica flowering in the bog garden

I have one exciting announcement to make. A film crew from the BBC has visited my allotment recently to film all the different flowers and the wildlife which comes visiting for the Gardeners World program. It will be featuring sometime at the end of June. Once I know the exact date I will announce it on my twitter account.

I will be back with more tales from my wildlife allotment in July.

Nadine Mitschunas

Nadine Mitschunas Posted by Nadine Mitschunas

Nadine developed an interest for wildlife from an early age, and discovered gardening as hobby when she was twenty years old. As a trained ecologist, she moved with her partner from Germany to England in 2008, and is now working at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. Much of her spare time is spent on her two-and-a-half allotment plots. These contain a wide range of ornamental plants, attracting many insects and other wildlife. She also grows some produce. Her other hobbies include photography and reading.

Nadine's blog: https://mywildlifeallotment.blogspot.com/
Nadine on twitter: https://twitter.com/Nadinemi13
Nadine's You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/MyWildlifeAllotment

 

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