We are sorry to say that the National Annual Lecture Day and AGM will not take place on 25 September 2021 as planned. We will let you know in the July edition of the HPS newsletter the arrangements for a virtual AGM instead.

My Wildlife Allotment Febuary 2021

The New Year started quite cold but when milder weather finally arrived the rain returned as well. I am lucky that my allotment site is well-drained and even with lots of rain we normally don’t get water-logged soil. The downside of this is that any moisture in the ground disappears quite quickly in summer when we often have weeks without rain. We had a few nice frosty mornings which I love, especially when the sun is just coming out as everything sparkles and looks quite magical. Snowdrops seem to be quite late this year, they are normally in full flower by mid-January. This year just a few are flowering at the moment and most are just showing their leaf tips.


A frosty morning on the allotment

Many of the grasses are still providing some structure

The snowdrops are finally coming out

In contrast to the snowdrops, the winter aconites have come out at their usual time and are in full flower now. They are so pretty but still confined to the three little clusters I planted about eight years ago. They have never self-seeded and spread out so it seems likely they are not completely happy on my allotment. But never mind, at least Cyclamen coum is thriving. The few I planted several years ago have spread out and now form a small carpet which looks really pretty, especially together with the snowdrops. I am thinking about buying a few more unusual snowdrops next year (I have already spent too much money on new plants this year) to start a little collection. I especially like the snowdrops with green marks on their petals and the yellow snowdrops.


Winter aconites don't mind being frosted

Snowdrops with Cyclamen coum

Snowdrops look pretty even when frosted

A few early spring perennials are showing signs of life. Pulmonaria officinalis has a few flowers open but has stopped growing in the recent cold spell. I found a few self-sown Pulmonaria seedlings which were growing quite far away from the mother plants so I assume that maybe ants are helping to spread the seeds as they do with the seeds of Cyclamen and snowdrops. I bought a new Clematis for the new arch I erected on the old allotment a few weeks ago. There was a lot of choice at the garden centre but I finally settled for Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ as it looked very vigorous and already had some green shoots. My Japanese plum tree, Prunus salicina, has started flowering. There are only a few flowers open at the moment but lots more to come. As the flowers open over quite a long period I am hopeful that at least some get pollinated and develop into juicy plums. I have now invested in another tree, a pluot, which is a hybrid between a Japanese plum and an apricot. I will plant this new tree close to my existing Japanese plum and hope they pollinate each other so I get more fruit.


The first Pulmonaria flowers

Clematis viticella 'Polish Spirit'

Prunus salicina has started flowering

There are a few evergreen perennials which look good all year. One of these is Kniphofia northiae which has long handsome leaves which are very tough and hardy. The plants flower in spring with large yellow and orange flowers but it is the leaves which have the most appeal. Regular readers might remember from my last blog that I had the intention to add a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) to my plant collection. I can now report that a very handsome strawberry tree specimen has arrived and is, at the moment, protected by the shelter of the cold greenhouse. I want to make sure we don’t get another ‘Beast from the East’ in February before I plant the precious tree out in the open. The other new plant I wanted to add to my allotment, hop (Humulus lupulus), is already planted with lots of leafmould as hop likes a humus-rich soil. I went for the varieties ‘Golden Tassels’ and ‘Phoenix’ as they are both very ornamental. We don’t get snow very often here in the South of England but last Sunday we had few cm of snow which transformed the allotment into a magical winter wonderland.


Kniphofia northiae looks very handsome

My strawberry tree has arrived

It's snowing!

I was glad that so far I had not cut down too many of the grasses and seed heads which looked even better in the snow. Unfortunately the snow did not last long and had mostly melted by the afternoon. If you want to see some moving images of the allotment in the snow have a look on my You Tube channel; you can find the link below the article.


The allotment is transformed in the snow

Grasses and seed heads in the snow

Enjoying the snow while it lasted

The early flowers such as the winter aconites, snowdrops and Cyclamen coum were completely unfazed by the snow and looked like nothing had happened after the snow had melted away. It is amazing that such delicate-looking flowers are so tough, but they have to be when they flower in the middle of winter. I also bought a new hellebore, Helleborus ‘Angel Glow’ which I really liked when I saw it in the garden centre. The leaves are quite dark and slightly patterned which make the pale pink flowers really stand out.


Winter aconites poking their heads out of the snow

Little Cyclamen coum flowers under the snow

Helleborus 'Angels Glow'

I have a lot of bird activity at the moment. The seed feeders have to be filled daily as they empty very quickly. The robin gets his mealworms which he really likes and the blackbirds enjoy some old apples. Long-tailed tits come regularly as well as blue and great tits. I have even seen the occasional chaffinch but they are relatively rare at the feeders.


My allotment robin looking for mealworms

The long-tailed tits come for a visit

Blackbirds love the apples I put under the bird feeders

Hopefully there will be some more spring flowers coming out in the next few weeks and I might even see the first bumblebees looking for nectar. I am also very much looking forward to seeing all the crocuses flower soon. I will be back with more tales from the 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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