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My Wildlife Allotment January 2020

The nearly constant rain has finally stopped and the allotment is drying out which means that I don’t leave muddy footprints everywhere on the allotment. We have not had many frosty days recently with temperatures often quite mild for the time of year. I hope we get some colder days in February so that plants don’t wake up too early. My loquat tree is thriving in the relatively mild temperatures and looks very handsome with its large leathery leaves. Grasses are still looking good and especially Panicum virgatum, with its coppery-brown leaves and airy cloud-like seed heads which are glistening in the sunshine, caught my eye. Many seed heads of various perennials have survived the constant rain and are standing tall. Eryngium planum seed heads for example last a surprisingly long time, also still standing are Monarda, Phlomis and Echinacea.

The new allotment
with the loquat tree in the foreground

Panicum virgatum is still looking good

Eryngium planum seed heads
and grasses provide structure

I was surprised to find one of my hellebores (Helleborus orientalis) already flowering in the middle of December. Everything seems to be flowering earlier and earlier each year, a sign of different times to come. I have also seen that many of the crocuses are already out but not flowering yet. Cyclamen coum started flowering at the beginning of December this year and more and more flowers are opening now. I have planted snowdrops between the Cyclamen as the white and pink flowers look so nice together, but the Cyclamen are starting to flower earlier now with the snowdrops still flowering at their normal time so soon both will be out of sync. Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) have an incredibly long flowering season from early spring to the middle of winter. There are still a few flowers open which attract the occasional fly on a mild sunny day.

My first hellebore flower

Cyclamen coum is starting to flower

One of the last harebell flowers

While most of the allotment is clad in rusty brown and buff colours the South Africa garden looks surprisingly green with most of the plants such as Kniphofia and Berkheya being wintergreen. All the different leaf shapes and shades of green look very interesting and are a nice change from the rest of the allotment. I have already ordered some more seeds of suitable plants for the South Africa garden such as Arctotis venusta and A. fastuosa. I can also reveal that I will see South Africa with my own eyes as my partner and I are planning a 16-day holiday there in September. We will have our base in Cape Town and will go on two trips, one exploring the wildflowers of Namaqualand and the other trip travelling along the Garden Route. We are also planning to visit the Table Mountains and Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

As there is not much gardening to do at this time of year, on sunny days I like to sit on the bench overlooking the wildlife pond, watching the birds at the feeders and letting my mind wander. These are precious moments as most of the year there is not much time to just sit on a bench as there is so much to do in the garden.

The South Africa garden is looking good
even in winter

The South Africa garden soaking up the sunshine

My favourite bench

As I had already announced in my last blog I am the proud owner of a greenhouse now. The greenhouse arrived on the allotment site in December in two boxes. I found it quite amazing that there was actually a complete greenhouse in these two not overly large boxes! The prospect of assembling the greenhouse from scratch was quite daunting but luckily I had my two friends Sarah and Lucy helping me which made it much easier. The parts were all packed together in the order they had to be put together, base, back, front, the two side parts, roof, window and door with the polycarbonate sheets in the second cardboard box. All parts had numbers which corresponded to the numbers and pictures in the instruction booklet. All in all it took us 2 days to assemble the greenhouse and was mostly easier than expected apart from attaching protective aluminium strips to the polycarbonate sheets, but after a bit of swearing this eventually worked out as well.

I have started sowing a few things already now, some radishes, lettuce and kohlrabi and a couple of perennials. At the end of January I will sow some more perennials (mainly from the HPS seed distribution scheme) and the bulk of vegetables and flowers from March onwards. A few tender vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, sweetcorn and courgettes I will start at home in my mini greenhouse in the back garden and only transfer them to the greenhouse on the allotment once it is safe to do so. I have also planted a blood peach tree 'Sanguine de Savoie' at the back of the greenhouse which I will fan-train so it does not take up too much space. This peach is apparently one of the tastiest peaches in the world which I hopefully can soon confirm.

The new greenhouse is finished

The new greenhouse sitting comfortably
between the grasses and other perennials

All ready for sowing

The wildlife has not been completely inactive on the allotment. Birds are very much in evidence; especially the starlings which descend on the bird feeders like hungry locusts. They are very noisy birds as they seem to constantly squabble with each other. Other birds such as tits and sparrows like to come as well and I have even seen a male pheasant who is hoovering up the food the other birds have dropped. I have also seen little wood mice under the bird feeders on my wildlife camera who are looking for dropped food in the night. They have to be careful as there are also cats and foxes on the prowl. The wildlife pond is home to lots of overwintering frogs at the moment, I have counted at least 10 large ones, most of them in a large clump at the bottom of the pond. Luckily the pond is deep enough so the frogs are not harmed if the pond should freeze over.

Lots of activity at the bird feeders

Little woodmice are out and about
underneath the bird feeders

Frogs are overwintering in the pond

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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