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My Wildlife Allotment January 2021

I really like this time of year as it gives me time to plan and think as there are not many essential gardening tasks to do. I sometimes wake up in the morning with my head full of new ideas and cannot wait to go to the allotment to see if they will fit in the space I have. One of my new ideas is to plant a hop (Humulus lupulus) at the base of the metal frame in front of the blue shed which so far has stood there bare and empty. I really like the look and smell of the hop fruit and hope I can make use of it for making tea. Another new idea is to plant a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) next to the bench on the new allotment as I really like the reddish bark on the stem which glows in the sunshine. The flowers are a favourite with bees and even the red fruit are edible albeit not very tasty. I've wanted a strawberry tree for many years, since I saw them growing wild on the Canary Islands, but could not think of a place sheltered enough as the allotment is quite cold and windy. I hope the area next to the bench offers enough protection with the shed in the back and surrounded by trees. I will keep you updated.

My main task on the allotment at the moment is cutting back perennials which do not look good enough anymore. It feels like that stems and seed heads are collapsing earlier this year due to the very wet weather we had most of December. After the storm on Boxing Day a lot of stems, especially of Rudbeckia and Echinacea, had blown over so had to be cut down. I cut all dead material into small pieces with large sturdy scissors and either use it for mulching the borders or for spreading it on the paths to keep them from turning muddy. Come spring the plants will have grown so much that none of the mulching material will be visible.


One of my favourite areas
on the allotment at the moment

There are still a lot
of grasses and seed heads standing

A sunny day on the allotment

I had a few more magical early mornings with frozen water droplets covering every grass and seed head. Especially Stipa gigantea and Bothriochloa bladhii looked very pretty covered in water droplets, looking like tiny jewels. Among the many different seed heads I find Morina longifolia looks especially interesting. I've had to cut them down now as they got too soggy with all the rain but I still have the pictures.


Frozen water droplets on Stipa gigantea seed heads

Bothriochloa bladhii is still looking good

The interesting-looking seed heads
of Morina longifolia

One of the best grasses for winter interest in my opinion is Miscanthus nepalensis. The seed heads look beautiful in the low winter sunshine and last a long time. As long as the plants have some sunshine and are not crowded out by taller perennials they should be happy. Miscanthus sinensis, a less delicate, more robust-looking grass, also has a lot of winter interest with the flowers looking like fireworks when illuminated by sunshine. There are many different varieties and I have collected quite a few but as the plants take up quite a lot of space I have to stop buying new ones now. The pretty button-like seed heads of Telekia speciosa are also still standing and will be cut down quite late as they are very rain resistant.


Miscanthus nepalensis looks great in the sunshine

Miscanthus sinensis seed heads look like fireworks

The seed heads of Telekia speciosa look like buttons

Not a perennial but an annual, but I had to include a picture of a poppy seed head (Papaver somniferum). Poppy seed heads look like a piece of art when they start to disintegrate, so delicate and beautiful. The same can be said of many Allium seed heads but I find that Allium carinatum is one of the most beautiful. The plants are easy to grow from seed and are not fussy about soil but like sunshine. I have also left the mini-prairie well alone for now as it still looks quite beautiful with the grasses and Echinacea seed heads. But I will soon have to get in there and start cutting down the Echinacea as some have already collapsed. Hopefully the drier weather we have at the moment will slow down the decay of the stems and keep them more upright.


Poppy seed heads are a piece of art

Allium carinatum seed heads last a long time

Most grasses and seed heads
in the mini prairie are still standing

The first flowers of the new year have started to appear. Euphorbia rigida is always very early, normally flowering in January and February. It is not long now before the flowers fully open but the fresh lime-green colour already stands out between all the brown and buff-coloured seed heads and grasses. Cyclamen coum is gearing up for the grand show in mid- January with more flowers opening every week now. Together with the snowdrops which are already starting to show as well, they will look a picture which I am already looking forward to. My first hellebore flower has opened as well, a pretty purple one with a darker centre. Not long now and all the other hellebores will be flowering, maybe even attracting a bee or two on a mild day.


Euphorbia rigida will soon be flowering

Cyclamen coum flowers
provide some much-needed colour

The first hellebore flowers are open

I had plenty of spider webs on the allotment this year and a few have remained which look especially beautiful covered in frost. My little allotment robin is often waiting for me when I arrive on the allotment, greeting me from the shed roof or one of the trees as he knows that mealworms will soon follow. I have even seen him recently flying around with another robin which must be a female as male robins are normally very territorial and would not accept any other male robin in the vicinity. The blue and great tits are less territorial and often descent on my bird feeders in little flocks. I especially like the long-tailed tits which I often hear first before I see them as they constantly call to each other with their high-pitched “zizizi” sounds. When I am very lucky I can even see the great spotted woodpecker who regularly visits the peanut feeder.


A frozen spider web

The little allotment robin
greeting me from the shed roof

A hungry blue tit

I wish everyone a happy New Year and will be back with more tales from my allotment in February.

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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