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My Wildlife Allotment February 2020

It has not been very cold since the middle of December but we did have a few very frosty days recently which transformed the allotment into a winter wonderland. I really like frosty sunny mornings but most days have been quite dull and wet so every sunny day has to be appreciated. I have started cutting back a few perennials but almost all grasses and many perennials are still standing as they add some structure to the allotment and provide shelter for insects and small animals. I also don`t like to look at bare earth. But eventually, latest at the end of February, everything needs to be cut back to make space for all the spring bulbs and fresh new growth.


A frosty morning on the allotment

The sun rising on a cold morning

Most grasses and many perennials are still standing

Snowdrops have been markedly late this year, most of them are just starting to flower now (at the end of January) while last year they were in full flower on the 13th of January. I wonder if the warm and very dry summer last year has something to do with it as snowdrop bulbs don`t like to sit in dry soil over summer. Hopefully this year we will get a more normal summer but I don`t hold my breath as with climate change the weather seems to get more and more erratic now. At least the winter aconites seem to be happy and started flowering at the beginning of January. The first crocuses are out now as well. The yellow crocuses, which I think are Crocus crysanthus, are always first, closely followed by purple-blue C. tommasianus. Large-flowered C. vernus is the last to flower.


The winter aconites look quite frosted
on a cold morning

Snowdrops are late this year

Cyclamen coum is flowering since December

Many seed heads look really pretty when covered in ice crystals on a frosty morning. I was especially smitten with the remains of the Symphyotrichum seed heads as they looked like pretty little flowers. The Berkheya cirsiifolia seed heads looked quite stunning as well, I was very pleased I have not cut them back so far. I have a few mosses growing on the allotment but normally I just walk past them and don`t give them a second look. But the little moss growing on a stone in the wildflower meadow stopped me in my tracks on a cold morning as it looked so pretty with the sun shining through the sporangia from behind, letting everything glow.


The Symphyotrichum seed heads look like little flowers

Berkheya cirsiifolia seed heads still look pretty

A little moss growing in my wildflower meadow

 I had one really nice surprise last week. When I had to vacate the large heated greenhouse at my workplace in December last year I also had to move my tender plants such as the Brugmansia, Sparmannia africana, Passiflora ligularis and P. mollissima outside as I had no space large enough for all these plants to accommodate them somewhere suitable indoors. I was very upset when my plants succumbed to the frosts but when I walked past them a few days ago I discovered that the Passiflora mollissima plants were still alive with some of the vines showing small green buds. I was very happy as I had grown the plants from seed and never thought they might be hardy enough to survive frosts of at least -6C outside in a pot with the compost completely frozen at times. I have now separated the plants and will plant one of them inside my cold greenhouse and the other two in sheltered spots outside on the allotment and see what they will do. It would be amazing to have this passion flower growing without a heated greenhouse as the flowers are very pretty and the fruit are tasty.


One of the passionflowers
is now planted in the cold greenhouse

Passiflora mollissima has pretty flowers

The passionflower growing
in the large greenhouse at work

My HPS seeds have arrived which is always a happy occasion. I got most of the seeds I ordered and have sown all the hardy perennials in my cold greenhouse now. I will be eagerly anticipating the first germination which will hopefully happen sometime in March. To accommodate all these new potential plants I had to make some space on the allotment so I went to work last weekend and took out some plants completely which had outgrown their space, others I divided and planted a small division back in the soil. With some plants such as a few of the more vigorous Symphyotrichum novi-belgii, Achillea millefolium and Origanum vulgare I have to do this every year but many other plants only need to be divided every 3-5 years.


My HPS seeds have arrived!

Many of the HPS seeds
are now sown in the cold greenhouse

The visible allotment wildlife mainly consist of numerous birds at the moment. As I am the only one on my allotment site with bird feeders I get a huge number of all sorts of different birds from tits, sparrows, goldfinches and shy dunnocks to larger birds such as starlings, black birds, pigeons and woodpeckers which is really nice but also means that I have to fill up the bird feeders every few days. When I was down with a virus infection a week ago I made it my mission to at least make a short trip to the allotment every few days to fill up the feeders as I did not want my birds to go hungry. I was surprised to see on my wildlife camera that my allotment hedgehog was out and about in the middle of January, searching for food. Hedgehogs do wake up occasionally in winter to defecate and eat a bit of food but it has been rather mild so far so the hedgehog is probably waking up more than usual. I hope he finds enough insects, worms and slugs under the leaf litter I leave on the beds.


Sparrows and great tits enjoy the fat balls

Dunnocks are very secretive birds

My allotment hedgehog is out and about
in the middle of January

I have now come to the end and will be back with more tales from my allotment next month.

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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