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My Wildlife Allotment September 2021

I cannot believe summer is nearly over, time is flying. But September is often still quite a sunny and warm month and some of my perennials are only just starting to flower now, such as all the different asters. Echinops ritro likes my allotment as it copes well with dry soil. I love the blue spherical flowers which look especially good in the early morning backlit by the low sun. The plants self-seed rather enthusiastically but excess seedlings are easily removed. Grasses are also looking good with Miscanthus, Sorghastrum nutans and Calamagrostis brachytricha coming into flower. After a gap in July many late red hot pokers are flowering such as Kniphofia ‘Star of Baden-Baden’. A lot of my pokers suffered from slugs this year as they like to eat the flowers when it is wet. Some, such as Kniphofia ‘Percy’s Pride’, have not flowered at all so far and are only now getting some flowers as we had no rain for weeks and slugs have gone into hiding.

Echinops ritro in the early morning sunshine

Grasses are looking good now

Kniphofia 'Star of Baden-Baden'
with Sanguisorba 'Pink Squirrel'

The mini-prairie is looking beautiful again this year with many of the Echinacea still flowering. Liatris spicata and Helianthus mollis provide some company with some of the asters (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii) starting to flower as well. It took a long time for Dahlia merckii to appear this year due to the cold spring, but the plants have made good growth and have started flowering. I really like the pretty pink flowers which look much more natural than many of the big blowsy garden dahlias. They grow together with Echinacea purpurea and Physostegia virginiana which lend the dahlia stems some support.

The mini-prairie

Echinacea purpurea and Helianthus mollis
in the mini-prairie

Dahlia merckii

Kniphofia rooperi, one of the latest pokers to come into flower, is flowering in the South Africa garden now. One of the new additions to the South Africa garden is Diascia ‘Hopleys’ which is supposed to be winter-hardy. Another poker, Kniphofia ‘Wrexham Buttercup’ looks quite spectacular with numerous large yellow flowers which really stand out. I grow K. ‘Bees Lemon’ as well which looks very similar but has taller flower stems and less numerous flowers. I love yellow daisy flowers and have collected quite a few species now. Inula oculus-christi has quite large flowers which flower over a long time, from the beginning of July right into September. The flowers look good with blue Eryngium planum.

Kniphofia rooperi in the South Africa garden

Kniphofia 'Wrexham Buttercup'

Inula oculus-christi with Eryngium planum

Another yellow daisy with large flowers is Silphium perfoliatum. I only planted it in June this year and the plant is already as tall as myself. It suffered quite a lot from slug damage earlier this year but eventually the plant grew faster than the slugs could eat it, some dry weather helped as well. A recent yellow daisy addition to my allotment is Helianthus salicifolius. I had seen it growing in some of the gardens I visited a few years ago and really liked it, especially the structure and height the whole plant gives to a border, combined with the pretty leaves. I have now planted it myself and it fits well with the surrounding planting. The plant has even started flowering now. Nearby I planted Helianthella quinquenervis which I tried, unsuccessfully, to grow from seed last year. When I found Helianthella for sale in a specialist perennial plant nursery I could not resist buying a plant. It hails from the Rocky Mountains in North America and will hopefully like my allotment.

Silphium perfoliatum

Helianthus salicifolia

Helianthella quinquenervis

Butterflies have been plentiful in August, especially peacock butterflies and admirals. But there were also many large and small whites, some commas, small tortoiseshells, brimstones and painted ladies. Echinacea purpurea is always a favourite with butterflies, but they also like the buddleia and Rudbeckia laciniata. Eryngium planum is a good plant for attracting solitary wasps. I was especially delighted to see so many bee wolfs (Philanthus triangulum) visiting the flowers this year. The bee wolf is our largest solitary wasp with a yellow face, black body and yellow and black tail. Females have a distinctive brown stripe behind the eye which no other of these larger yellow and black wasps has. Female wasps hunt honeybees which they paralyse with their stinger and use as provisions for their larvae. They dig their nests in open sandy soil and each female may collect up to 100 bees during its flight period. My allotment is also home to at least 12 large female wasp spiders which like to make their webs in the tall vegetation in my flower borders. Several of the spiders live in the South Africa garden and the mini-prairie, the remaining spiders are dotted over the rest of the allotment. Thanks to the many grasses growing everywhere I also have many grasshoppers and crickets which like to feed on the different grasses. Wasp spiders love to eat these insects which might explain why I have so many of these spiders now. Last year was the first year I have seen them and only counted four of them, this year I have 12! Male wasp spiders are tiny and very difficult to see but they will be somewhere in the borders as well. Being so tiny they have a better chance of going unnoticed by the large female spiders during mating, otherwise they might end up as a juicy meal.

An admiral butterfly enjoying the Echinacea flowers

I have quite a lot of bee wolfs
on the allotment this year

A pretty wasp spider
waiting for some juicy grasshoppers

As August has been a very dry month here I am hoping for some rain now. I will also have some time off work in September and can enjoy the allotment more which I am looking forward to. 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.

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