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My Wildlife Allotment June 2021

Be careful what you wish for! In April I wished for rain as it was so dry, now we've had one of the wettest Mays on record. It is still quite cold and despite having no frosts anymore most nights are very cold for this time of year. The allotment is looking quite lush and green now thanks to all the rain but many plants are several weeks behind and some of the trees such as the mulberry are only just coming into leaf. Because of all the rain we had there are also lots of snails and slugs out and about. I don’t mind the snails so much as they normally don’t do much damage, but some of the slugs are very destructive, especially when many of them congregate on one plant which is then quickly left in a sorry state with shredded leaves and damaged stems. A few of my plants seem to be favourite slug food such as some of the Rudbeckia, some asters and the new Silphium perfoliatum I planted. Luckily after many slug hunts (I relocate slugs to the hedge bordering the allotment site) there are noticeably fewer slugs eating my plants now and with drier weather approaching damage should soon be more limited.

The allotment on a sunny day

A cold morning,
but everything looks lush and green from the rain

Euphorbia and Veronica in the steppe planting

The two new species tulips I planted last autumn are now flowering. Yellow Tulipa orphanidea is growing in the wildflower meadow and looks right at home there. Red Tulipa aximensis is just coming into flower, one of the latest tulips to flower. I am looking forward to seeing the flowers opening in some warm sunshine soon. Pulsatilla vulgaris has mainly finished flowering but on show are now the beautiful fluffy flower heads which look a bit like sea urchins. After a rain shower or cold night the seed heads collect water droplets which sparkl in the sunshine which makes them look really special.

Tulipa orphanidea 'Flava'

Tulipa aximensis

Beautiful Pulsatilla vulgaris seed heads

In the steppe planting the pale blue flowers of Veronica gentianoides attract attention. I started with just one plant which has now self-seeded and looks more natural, as if it has always grown there. The blue of the Veronica looks really pretty together with the yellow flowers of Euphorbia epithymoides. I have wrote about Borago pygmea last year, which I had sown from seed I got via the HPS seed distribution. This year the plant has even more flowers which look so pretty, quite delicate with a pale blue colour. I have also discovered that the plant has self-seeded as I found little seedlings around the mother plant. Also flowering at the moment is orange Papaver rupifragum. I had grown the original plants from seed, and they have now self-seeded in a few places. This Papaver is perennial and quite tough, it even keeps its leaves in winter so you never forget where it is growing.

Veronica gentianoides in the steppe planting

I love the pretty little flowers of Borago pygmaea

Papaver rupifragum after a rain shower

I have several Geum rivale varieties growing on my allotment which are all flowering now. The true wild form was the first I planted and grows well at the edge of the pond and in the bog garden. I have also been given a pretty yellow-flowered variety which has slightly larger flowers. The third variety I have has quite large peach-coloured flowers. I am not really sure of their proper names but admire them nevertheless. I am also growing other Geum such as orange-flowered Geum coccineum and some of the large garden varieties such as ‘Mrs Bradshaw’ which are all very garden-worthy. Some of the larger Geum find my allotment a bit too dry but most others seem to do well.

Geum rivale

Geum rivale with yellow flowers

Geum rivale with pretty peach-coloured flowers

Often confused with lupins and aptly named false lupin, Thermopsis rhombifolia var. montana is certainly quite showy when in flower as the large pea-like yellow flowers really stand out. They are also well-visited by bumblebees on sunny days. The plant is easy to grow in a sunny border but be aware that the plant runs underground and will slowly spread out from the place where it was originally planted. Another plant I have grown from seed I got from the HPS seed distribution scheme is Potentilla rupestris which has beautiful white flowers. This plant seems to be happy on my allotment and is also very easy to grow, it does not even need any watering in a dry summer. Many of the moisture-loving primulas don’t grow well on my allotment but Primula sieboldii with its small ground-hugging leaves and shocking pink flowers does not mind if the soil dries out in summer. The plant completely disappears in winter but fresh leaves start growing again in early spring, followed by the pink flowers.

Thermopsis rhombifolia var. montana

Potentilla rupestris has pretty white flowers

Primula sieboldii

The larger wildlife pond is still very quiet, hardly any frogs are to be seen and only a few newts. A few pond skaters and a whirligig beetle but no water boatmen. A strange year with a cold winter and spring which must have hit the frogs and other pond life quite hard. One of the tiny ponds on the allotment has at least a few frogs which like to sit at the edge of the pond during the day. If I am careful I can get quite close without disturbing them. On rare sunny and warm days I have seen quite a lot of solitary bees visiting flowers and building nests. One of the prettiest solitary bees in my opinion is the tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva) which I often see visiting the apple and cherry flowers. These bees build nests in the ground which consist of a tunnel with one or more nesting chambers at the end. The excavated soil is often piled up above ground and looks a bit like an ants nest with a hole in the middle. Once the nest is finished and each nesting chambers filled with an egg and pollen, the tunnel entrance is sealed. The next generation of bees will then emerge in the next year.

The wildlife pond

Frogs enjoy some time out of the water

The beautiful tawny mining bee

With warmer weather on its way the allotment will hopefully look much more colourful soon. 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.

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