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My Wildlife Allotment September 2020

We've had quite a lot of rain now which has revived many of the plants on the allotment. A lot of seedlings have come up as well which leaves me to decide which can stay and which need to go. With seedlings of wild plants it is easier as most are just not pretty enough to warrant a place on the allotment but I do leave some of the more showy ones such as Silene latifolia, S. dioica and Veronica chamaedrys. Seedlings of ornamental plants I normally leave growing or move them to a more suitable place. I have lots of Verbascum seedlings coming up everywhere (mainly Verbascum nigrum and V. phoeniceum) which I leave as long as they don’t grow in the vegetable areas. Dianthus carthusianorum is generous with seedlings as well and as it is one of my favourite plants they can normally stay. Other plants do produce seeds but never any seedlings so if I want them to multiply I need to divide them in winter.

I have many different asters on the allotment and late summer and autumn is normally the time when they really stand out. The first of the late summer asters to flower is normally Aster x frikartii 'Mönch', followed by Aster amellus and the first of the New York asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) and New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae). New York asters self-seed a lot on my allotment to a point where I have now acquired an eclectic mix of all sorts of flower colours from pale pink to purple with either simple or filled flowers and flowering times ranging from August to October. They all provide great colour at a time when many plants have already finished flowering.


The first autumn asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii)
are flowering on the allotment

Aster x frikartii 'Mönch'
is one of the longest-flowering asters

Naturalistic planting with
Solidago, asters, Echinacea and grasses

There are also quite a lot of my Kniphofias flowering at the moment. Kniphofia 'Percy's Pride' has grown into a large plant with many pale-yellow flowers which look spectacular. Kniphofia ‘Star of Baden-Baden’ is not the prettiest Kniphofia but the flower stems are tall and the flowers stand out. Another reason I grow this variety is that my partner was born in Baden-Baden, a town in the Black Forest in Germany. Kniphofia ‘Papaya Popsicle’ has fiery tomato-red flowers and has a long flowering time. I have collected all the different varieties in the Popsicle series as I like the neat grass-like foliage and colourful flowers but not all have survived. Some have been too weak-growing such as ‘Lemon Popsicle’ and slowly dwindled away. Others such as ‘Pineapple Popsicle’, ‘Papaya Popsicle’, ‘Mango Popsicle’ and ‘Banana Popsicle’ are still growing strong and flower every year.


Kniphofia 'Percy's Pride'

Kniphofia 'Star of Baden-Baden'

Kniphofia 'Papaya Popsicle'

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii is providing splashes of sunshine-yellow on the allotment, nicely complementing the pale-purple New York asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) which have started flowering now. I actually had a lot more of the smaller Rudbeckia growing on the allotment, mainly Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm'. But after thriving for a few years the spring and summer droughts of the last years have proved fatal and most of the plants have disappeared. Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii seems to be slightly more drought tolerant but I do have to water the plants a lot in dry spells. I love compass plants (Silphium spp.), native to North America. Most are very tall and take up a lot of space so I did not dare plant them on my windy allotment. A few years ago I found a smaller Silphium, S. mohrii, which stays comparatively compact and does not need any staking. It seems to love my allotment and produces many flowers in late summer and autumn. Really pretty!


Some of the New York asters
(Symphyotrichum novi-belgii)
are already flowering

Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii

Silphium mohrii is doing well on the allotment

The mini-prairie continues to delight, with Echinacea purpurea and asters flowering, joined by Helianthus mollis, giving a colourful picture. This is probably the most colourful area on my allotment at the moment, and the nice thing is that it mainly looks after itself. Apart from cutting the whole area down in late winter and watering occasionally in a dry spell, I don’t need to do any other maintenance. I just enjoy it.


The mini-prairie looks very colourful at the moment

Echinacea purpurea growing in the mini-prairie

Helianthus mollis is another great prairie plant

Many parts of my allotment are too dry for growing Sanguisorba, most of them don’t like dry soil. But so far Sanguisorba 'Pink Brushes' seems to be happy, planted in an area adjoining the mini-prairie. The flowers are pale pink and look like very hairy caterpillars, I really like them. The pond is looking nice with many of the pond plants growing well. I even found a new plant (Common water-plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica) which must have self-seeded as I've never planted it myself. Occasionally I see frogs and on sunny days the dragonflies patrol. I am looking forward to having a wildlife camera again soon so I can see what is happening around the pond in the night.

While clearing some dead plants from the border I discovered a wasp spider hanging in a web she'd made between the vegetation. Wasp spiders are very distinctive, very large and with white, black and yellow stripes on their body. They are normally quite common in rough grassland near the South coast but with climate change they have started to move northwards and have now arrived on my allotment. The large females lurk in their webs to wait for their favourite prey which is grasshoppers. The males are rarely seen as they are tiny and not as colourful as the females. Since I discovered the first wasp spider I have now found three more; they seem to like my allotment.


Sanguisorba 'Pink Brushes'

The wildlife pond

Wasp spiders are happy on the allotment

I still see many bumblebees on the allotment, visiting flowers such as Telekia speciosa, Echinops ritro and Heliopsis helianthoides. Many will be males but there are also still a lot of workers around and I have even seen a few very large new queens. Most bumblebee nests will soon reach the end of their life with only the new queens surviving the winter. Common carder bumblebees can often be seen until late October and Buff-tailed bumblebees all year as they establish winter-active colonies in many areas of England with a good supply of winter-flowering shrubs.


Telekia speciosa is attracting many bumblebees

Bumblebees like the flowers of Echinops ritro

A cute little Buff-tailed bumblebee
inside a Heliopsis helianthoides flower

After all the rain it will be nice to have some warmer and sunnier weather coming back to our shores so let’s hope for a glorious September. I will be back with more tales from my allotment next month.

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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