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My Wildlife Allotment December 2021

We have had some very cold weather already, with frosty nights and cold days. There was even a bit of snow mixed in. After the long warm autumn this was quite a change, but I love this kind of weather as long as the days are dry and bright. This cold weather is also good news for many plants as they are now able to shut down completely and take a well-earned rest. Especially, trees kept their leaves a long time this year and autumn colour was very late, with many trees only starting to change into autumn colours in mid-November.

I have also used the down-time, and some time off work, to take a good look at my plantings and to decide which plants had to go as I wanted to make a bit of space again. Some plants such as Symphyotrichum novi-belgii and Origanum vulgare have self-seeded in too many places so they were the first to go. I have only left a few choice plants which I am sure will lose no time to start self-seeding everywhere again. I have also removed some of the old scruffy-looking Anemanthele lessoniana and replaced them with young self-seeded plants. The self-seeded Rudbeckia laciniata had to go as well as they always suffered badly in summer droughts. Suddenly there was a lot more space again which I have already started filling with some self-seeded Euphorbia characias and Echinacea purpurea. I have also planted a few of my young trees such as Liquidambar styraciflua and Parrotia persica in the gaps which I will try to keep at a manageable size with diligent pruning.


Seed heads and grasses are still looking good

A frosty morning on the allotment

Echinacea seed heads and Panicum virgatum
in the mini-prairie

The frosty weather has finished off the last of the flowers now but the many seed heads still provide a lot of interest. Echinacea purpurea has one of the best and longest-lasting seed heads which stand out between all the other plants thanks to their nearly black colour and refined shape. Monarda fistulosa has small round seed heads which last a long time. Inula magnifica has quite large button-shaped seed heads which look especially good on a frosty morning. Veronicastrum virginicum has not only stunning flowers in summer but also showy long-lasting seed heads in winter.


Early morning sunshine illuminating
Echinacea seed heads and grasses

Monarda fistulosa and
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

Veronicastrum virginicum and Inula magnifica
have long-lasting seed heads

Morina longifolia is not a common garden plant but worth growing. The flowers look quite unusual with many whirls of small pink tubular flowers on long stems and the seed heads retain this unusual look. The plants need moist soil in summer but don’t like sitting in wet and cold soil in winter. Most sea hollies have good seed heads in winter. I mainly grow Eryngium planum which has small, spiky seed heads which look good until about December, longer if we have a dry winter, and then slowly disintegrate. The pond is in its winter sleep now but I keep the surrounding area as natural as possible to provide hiding places for frogs, newts and insects. The many seed heads and grasses around the pond look good when illuminated by winter sunshine.


Morina longifolia seed heads and Kniphofia rooperi,
which is still flowering in November

Eryngium planum seed heads

The pond
with the sun just coming up behind the houses

Many perennial plants are disappearing underground now but a few stay green all winter. One of the best-looking winter-green plants on my allotment is Kniphofia northiae with its impressive rosettes of long stiff leaves which stay green all winter and seem to be completely unfazed by even the worst weather winter can throw at them. The flowers appear in spring but are not especially pretty so I mainly grow this Kniphofia for its leaves. As mentioned earlier, most autumn colour has been late this year. But not so with Parrotia persica which turned into the most beautiful autumn colours, from orange to crimson red, as early as October and kept going until the end of November. When I bought this tree last year it was tiny and so far it has grown only very slowly. I hope it is big enough now to cope with being planted out in the open ground where it hopefully will grow into a beautiful small specimen tree. Before the really cold weather arrived in mid-November there were still a few plants flowering. Papaver rupifragum flowers all through summer and autumn, and only stops producing new flowers in really frosty weather.


Kniphofia northiae has beautiful leaf rosettes

Parrotia persica with stunning autumn colour

Frosted Papaver rupifragum flower

The same can be said of Berkheya cirsiiflora which produces its pretty white daisy flowers from summer to late autumn. The plants like a bit of moisture in summer but don’t want to sit in cold wet soil in winter. Aster tataricus is one of the latest-flowering asters, only starting to flower in October and continuing into November until really cold weather will stop it flowering. Another late-flowering aster is Symphyotrichum oblongifolium which starts flowering in October as well. This aster has pretty pale-purple flowers and aromatic leaves. It likes well-drained soil and sunshine, and looks especially good with grasses.


Berkheya cirsiifolia flowers for a long time

Aster tataricus

The last Symphyotrichum oblongifolium flowers

Another gardening year is nearing its end. I wish everybody a peaceful and relaxing Christmas time and a good start into the New Year. I will be back with more tales from my allotment in January 2022.

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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