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My Wildlife Allotment July 2019

The recent rain and warmer temperatures have really boosted growth on the allotment. I had to cut back many plants along the paths as in some places I was not able to walk anymore without constantly trying to push plants back. I also did not want to have soaked shoes and trousers all the time when I went to the allotment after a rain shower. There are so many flowers opening everywhere, nearly on a daily basis, just being away for a few days and coming back brings new surprises around every corner. Ornamental grasses are starting to come into their own now, with Stipa gigantea making quite an impressive statement which can be seen even from further away. Other grasses flowering are Calamagrostis x acutiflora, Cortaderia richardii (toetoe) and many Stipa, Eragrostis and Festuca species. I especially like Melica ciliata with its fluffy seed heads which likes poor dry soil.


Everything is growing well after the rain

Melica ciliata has large fluffy seed heads

Stipa gigantea can be seen even from further away

The steppe plantings look very colourful at the moment with Dianthus deltoides, D. cathusianorum, Aster tongolensis, Euphorbia coralliodies, Phlomis russeliana and Kniphofia hirsuta flowering. These plantings get hardly any additional water, with the exception of Aster tongolensis which is not as drought resistant as I had hoped.


Dianthus, Euphorbia and Phlomis
in the steppe planting

Kniphofia hirsuta

Aster tongolensis growing with Dianthus deltoides

Another plant which is looking good at the moment is Lychnis coronaria in various colour forms from pure white to crimson, many I grew from a mystery seed mix from the HPS seed distribution scheme. Echium vulgare is self-seeding on my allotment. I leave most of the plants to flower as they are so good for bees.


White Lychnis coronaria, Echium vulgare
and Malva sylvestris

Lychnis coronaria
with pretty crimson-coloured flowers

I really like Anthemis tinctoria which does very well on my allotment. The numerous yellow daisy flowers brighten up a gloomy day and attract many different pollinators. Especially solitary bees like to visit the flowers and it is always quite interesting to see how many different bees I can find. Anthemis tinctoria needs no additional watering and apart from cutting the plants back after flowering has finished they don`t need any other maintenance. The plants are relatively short-lived but self-seed gently so I always have some young plants to distribute around the allotment. I have also planted Anthemis sancti-johannis, which has orange flowers, in the South Africa garden this spring. Apparently this Anthemis is a bit more difficult to keep alive as it dislikes wet soil in winter. I hope the South Africa garden will suit it as it is very well-drained. I will report back next spring if my plant is still alive!


A small Furrow bee visiting an Anthemis flower

Cheerful Anthemis flowers

Anthemis tinctoria is great for solitary bees

The foxtail lilies (Eremurus) look spectacular again this year. I have yellow and orange flowered Eremurus and also planted some Eremurus ‘Pinocchio’ last year which is just coming into flower. My allotment seems to be very suitable for growing Eremurus as I have my older plants for about 7 years now and they look better every year. I think the secret to growing Eremurus successfully is very well-drained soil and giving them a sunny open position without competition from large perennials, especially in spring and early summer when the plants are actively growing. Later in the year it is good to have some perennials growing nearby to disguise the leaves, which die back once flowering has finished, and to fill the gap in late summer. I have chosen Linaria purpurea, Salvia nemorosa, Eupatorium purpureum and Aster tataricus which either don`t cast much shade or come into growth so late that they don't interfere with the Eremurus.

I was very happy to find one of my young Dictamnus albus plants flowering this year. Most perennial plants take about 2 years until they flower when grown from seed. Dictamnus albus needs 4 to 5 years or more as they spend the first years of their lives growing an extensive root system before they invest in any substantial leaf growth. A lot of patience is required to grow Dictamnus from seed but what a reward if after all these years they finally flower!


My yellow Eremurus looks spectacular

The orange Eremurus

Dictamnus albus
flowering for the first time this year

The South Africa garden is developing well and some more plants are in flower now. Senecio polyodon has nearly finished flowering but other plants such as Gazania rigens and a yellow Berkheya are flowering. I have grown the yellow Berkheya from seed which I got from the HPS seed distribution scheme. The seeds were just labeled as “Berkheya sp., yellow flowers” so I am not sure about the species. The plants look a bit like Berkheya multijuga but the leaves are not narrow enough, but still very prickly. The yellow flowers are quite large and attract many different pollinators. Apart from in the South Africa garden which is very open and sunny I have planted a few plants in the flower borders, but they don`t seem to do well there and have not flowered as they don't seem to be able to cope with competition from other larger plants. Berkheya purpurea seems to cope much better in such a situation and is growing well in my borders.


The South Africa garden with
orange Anthemis sancti-johannis and
yellow Berkheya flowering

Berkhea sp. flowering in the South Africa garden

The Berkheya flowers don't just look spectacular
but are also good for pollinators

Another habitat I have created is the prairie. It looked quite green and unassuming until now but what a transformation! Echinacea pallida, E. paradoxa, Engelmannia pinnatifida, Coreopsis verticillata and Asclepias tuberosa are flowering at the moment with Echinacea purpurea, Liatris spicata, Helianthus mollis, Rudbeckia missouriensis and Solidago ptarmicoides waiting in the wings. As a prairie needs some grasses as well I have planted Sorghastrum nutans, Bouteloua gracilis, B. curtipendula, Sporobolus heterolepis and Panicum virgatum with the Bouteloua the first to start flowering now. I have grown all these plants from seed and apart from a few outsiders such as Kniphofia citrina for spring and early summer interest I tried to remain true to the spirit of a real prairie and only selected plants which actually grow in North American prairies. As many prairie plants are quite susceptible to slug damage (they have not evolved with slugs as a main herbivore as plants have in wetter habitats such as Northern and Western Europe) I try to keep the area as slug-free as possible. I don`t mulch for example so there are no hiding places for slugs. I also treated the area with 2 applications of organic slug pellets in early spring. My hedgehog and the frogs from the nearby wildlife pond are doing their bit as well. This seems to do the trick as I don`t have any slug damage on my prairie plants at all.


The prairie garden

Echinacea pallida and E. paradoxa

Asclepias tuberosa

The wildlife pond is doing well and remains one of my favourite places on the allotment. There is always something to see! The pond lily is flowering with pretty white flowers which only open later in the day. Frogs like to sit around the edge in the sunshine, the newts are still there and I even found some newtlets recently! I found several dragonfly exuviae between the pond plants so the dragonflies have already hatched. Small blue damselflies are regular visitors to the pond as well and I also found a pretty green leech with small white dots. As the leech was moving around a lot I even discovered it carried eggs under the belly, so I have a female!


The wildlife pond

The pond lily is flowering

A frog enjoying the sunshine

The hedgehog is still very active and I see him quite often on the wildlife camera. I hope he is busy munching my slugs! I have not seen much of the foxes recently, but to my delight I got a picture of a fox cub looking around the corner of my shed. So now I know that the foxes have been busy rearing their young!


A pretty green leech

A small fox cub visiting my allotment

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

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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