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My Wildlife Allotment April 2022

We had some warm weather recently with the temperature climbing into double figures. But nights stayed cold and sometimes frosty which held many plants back despite the warm days. All is going to change now with some cold northerly wind on its way to us bringing cold days and frosty nights. My apricot and almond trees have flowered prolifically this year with the warm weather aiding pollination of the flowers and little fruit forming already. I hope the colder weather will not kill the fruit as I am looking forward to eating some home-grown apricots and almonds this year. The greengage has just started flowering, last year the flowers were covered in snow for a day and still produced some fruit so hopefully it will be fine. My Asian pear is flowering as well and as it had suffered greatly in the cold spring we had last year I have covered it now until warmer weather returns. I have also added to my little bonsai tree collection with some crab apples, namely Malus hupehensis, M. sieboldii and M. yunnanensis, which all produce quite small fruit and nice autumn colours which will look good once they look like proper bonsai trees as they are only small sticks at the moment.


The moss gardens and little bonsai trees
are doing well

Early morning sunshine on the allotment

The greengage has started flowering

The allotment is starting to look greener now with primroses and daffodils flowering everywhere. Some of the trees are already coming into leaf such as the medlar and quince. These two trees are quite hardy and don’t mind frosty weather but I also have Cercidiphyllum japonicum, which is already in leaf, but which seems to be quite frost sensitive as some of the bottom leaves have turned black after a recent frosty night. I have covered the little tree now with fleece as more frosty weather is forecast but I wonder why the tree is coming into leaf so early when the leaves are not frost-hardy. For a long time now I kept admiring Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' whenever I saw it in garden magazines or gardening books, with its beautiful large yellowish green leaves which really stand out. Finally I have now planted my own little tree which looks happy and healthy with buds swelling nicely. Several of my Pulsatilla vulgaris plants have started flowering now. One of the plants growing in the mini-prairie on the new allotment looks quite stunning with its crimson red flowers.


Spring has arrived with daffodils, primroses
and several fruit trees flowering

My new Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' tree
with buds swelling already

A pretty red-flowered Pulsatilla vulgaris

At the edge of the wildlife pond the flowers of Primula rosea add a splash of pink. Nothing distracts from the flowers as they appear well before the leaves come out later in spring. I also have a small population of Primula veris on the allotment which has started to spread out in a few places. In one area the plants have hybridised with Primula vulgaris and have produced offspring with intermediate traits such as longer flower stems and larger flowers. In the same area I also found one Primula veris plant with quite an unusual flower colour with rusty-red outer petals and a central yellow inner part. I don’t really know where this plant has come from but it must be a hybrid of some sort. Really interesting and hopefully it will grow well as it looks quite pretty. My Eremurus plants have grown their basal leaves now which always look quite curious when pushing out of the soil. One of my plants self-seeded two years ago and some of the seedling plants now look large enough to flower this year. It will be interesting to see if they look the same as the mother plant as I grow both orange and yellow-flowered Eremurus on my allotment.


Primula rosea growing at the edge of the pond

Primula veris with an unusual flower colour

The curious-looking leaves of Eremurus

Several of the wild tulips have started flowering. Earliest is always Tulipa turkestanica which has delicate white and yellow flowers on slender stems. Next is T. praestans which has such an incredibly vivid red colour that it is hard to miss especially when the flowers are wide open in the warm spring sunshine. Also flowering now is T. sylvestris which has yellow flowers on relatively long flower stems. It seems to be at home under the gooseberry bushes and has even self-seeded a bit into surrounding areas. Another pretty spring-flowering plant is Cardamine quinquefolia. After seeing pictures of it in a garden magazine I acquired a plant which I planted under the greengage tree which is hopefully providing the shady and humus-rich conditions this plant likes. Cardamine quinquefolia starts flowering quite early, often in February, continuing into March. As lesser celandine, Ficaria verna, the plant will completely disappear underground in early summer only to appear again in late winter the following year.


Tulipa praestans

Tulipa sylvestris

Cardamine quinquefolia

My little collection of hardy and half-hardy sundews in the greenhouse looks really nice now. All sundews have woken up and are growing well, with lots of dew on their leaves which looks really pretty. My favourite sundew is Drosera coccicaulis 'Alba' which has apple-green leaves covered in large amounts of dew. The plants will soon flower. Another pretty sundew is D. rotundifolia which also grows wild in our peat bogs. The plants catch the occasional little fly daring to come into the greenhouse which keeps them happy. In early summer the plants will go outside where they can catch even more insects. The outdoor sundews and other outdoor carnivorous plants such as the sarracenias and venus flytraps have not woken up yet as the nights are still too cold. But hopefully once the night temperature rises they will come out of dormancy as well.


Happy little sundews

Drosera coccicaulis 'Alba'

Drosera rotundifolia

Hellebores are still flowering, providing nectar and pollen for hungry bumblebee queens. I have seen many queens so far of several species, some of them have not found a nesting site yet and are still searching. But I have not seen many solitary bees so far apart from hairy-footed flower bees patrolling patches of Pulmonaria. Hopefully once we are getting warmer nights the solitary bees will be out in force as well. Long-standing readers of my blog might remember that last year I had no frog spawn in my pond which was a bit disappointing. Luckily this year the frogs have been busy and left several large clumps of frog spawn after a few rainy nights at the beginning of March. The eggs have hatched now and tiny tadpoles are wiggling around in the pond which is nice to see. Unfortunately most of these tadpoles will get eaten by other pond animals such as beetles and dragonfly larvae but some will make it to develop into little froglets and later adult frogs. I have also seen quite a lot of nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) on the allotment, which can often be found sunbathing on leaves or flowers. The adult spiders are active hunters and do not spin a web to catch food, instead using a quick sprint to capture flies and other insects. The female carries her large, round egg-sac in her fangs. When the young are about to hatch, she builds a silk sheet among the vegetation to act as a tent, sheltering and protecting the spiderlings until they are old enough to leave on their own. Look out for the tent-like silk sheet in taller vegetation later this year, if you approach carefully you can often see the mother spider sitting on top of the silk sheet with her offspring safely protected inside.


Bumblebees love the hellebore flowers

A frog enjoying the sunshine

A nursery web spider sunbathing on a primrose flower

Hopefully April will bring some nice spring weather with warmer nights and some gentle rain. I also keep my fingers crossed that my apricot, peach and almond trees are producing some fruit this year despite the cold snap. I will be back with more tales from my allotment in May.

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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