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My Wildlife Allotment November 2019

The allotment is looking very autumnal now, with seed heads dominating and strong colours slowly disappearing. We have had a few light frosts now which did not do much damage so late flowers such as some of the asters are still going strong. Early mornings, with the sun just coming up over the horizon, are the most beautiful. Dew is covering every leaf, flower and seed head, set alight by low sunrays.

The allotment in the early morning looks beautiful

Seed heads and grasses are dominating now

Late asters are still providing some colour

One of the longest flowering plants on my allotment this year was Silphium mohrii, flowering from July right into October. I only bought the plant in early summer this year and at first was not sure if I had planted it in the right position, in the middle of a flower border with the lower leaves shaded by surrounding plants. But as it turned out the plant was very happy, opening an endless stream of flowers which were very attractive to countless bumblebees and other pollinators. My loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica) was looking slightly unhappy most of the summer but suddenly started growing new leaves in September. It looks much better now, a handsome little tree with large, slightly hairy leaves. Rudbeckia triloba was looking spectacular this year, with numerous small yellow daisy flowers in late summer and autumn. This plant self-seeds quite a lot on my allotment; I've already had to move many small plants from last year’s seeds to more suitable locations. I will soon be running out of space!

Silphium mohrii has a long flowering season

My loquat has grown into a handsome little tree now

Rudbeckia triloba was still looking good in October

There are many showy seed heads at this time of year but one of the best, in my opinion, belongs to Phlomis russeliana. Come rain or shine, the seed heads stand tall and look especially beautiful in frosty weather. The grass Anemanthele lessoniana is slowly changing into autumn colours now with leaves turning a rusty orange and yellow. This grass has the most unusual flowers, feathery plumes on long trailing flower stems which get tangled around your legs when you walk past. I can only imagine that this grass, in its native habitat in New Zealand, gets pollinated not only by wind but also by mammals and other creatures, brushing past the low-hanging flowers while going about their daily business. I have several large-flowered Dahlias which you cannot really overlook in the borders, in contrast, much more difficult to spot, is Dahlia merckii with its small, pale-pink delicate flowers. But once autumn arrives the stage is set for these pretty flowers to shine. Now, between all the brown seed heads and buff-coloured grasses, the flowers of Dahlia merckii stand out well and look like little stars. Only the first heavy frosts bring an end to the show.

The seed heads of Phlomis russeliana last all winter

The half plot with Anemanthele lessoniana
in the foreground

Dahlia merckii looking pretty
between grasses and seed heads

Warm autumn sunshine brings out the bees. Some late asters seem to be more attractive to them than others, there must be differences in the amount and quality of nectar produced as to me the flowers all look very similar. One of the best late asters on my allotment is a pretty pink New York aster (Aster novi-belgii), grown from seed, so unfortunately I cannot give a name for the variety.

A solitary bee is visiting the pink aster flowers

Even wasps come for a visit

Common carder bumblebees are still out and about

Last year I sowed Kniphofia rooperi seed, the plants have grown well and were still flowering at the end of October. The brilliant red colour of the flowers really stands out at this time of year. Another plant with brilliant autumn colour is my Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia). This was quite a surprise as I did not know the trees look so beautiful in autumn. The leaves turn a brilliant red and it nearly looks like someone set the tree on fire. I only planted the pear last winter, but I might get the first fruit next year as apparently the trees fruit from a young age. One of the latest asters on my allotment, Aster tataricus, has started flowering. The plants are relatively tall but very sturdy and don’t need any support. It will continue flowering into December if we don’t get a hard frost.

Kniphofia rooperi is looking gorgeous

Asian pear leaves look like as if they are on fire

Aster tataricus
is flowering from October to December

Watching the butterflies making use of nectar produced by late flowers is a joy; I have seen several painted ladies, some looking very fresh, a few admirals and one or two peacocks. They like visiting Verbena bonariensis which is still flowering, and also Aster oblongifolius. This aster is also called aromatic aster as the leaves smell of pine needles when slightly crushed. I grew my plant from seed, about 10 years ago, and it is still going strong without division or any other special care. Every year in September the pretty blue-purple flowers open, lasting well into November and even survive frosts. This is a very forgiving plant which I can wholeheartedly recommend.

A painted lady butterfly is drinking nectar
from Verbena bonariensis

Admirals love the Aster oblongifolius flowers

The pretty flowers of Aster oblongifolius

With Christmas fast approaching now, I am looking forward to planting all the fruit trees I ordered, which will arrive bare-root at the beginning of winter. I will be back with more tales from my allotment in December.

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.

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