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My Wildlife Allotment May 2022

Since I wrote the last blog hardly a drop of rain has fallen. Everything is so dry now that cracks are appearing in places and soil has turned to dust. I have stopped planting out any more new plants as it just means I have to water them all the time. Most of my seed-raised plants are now patiently waiting in the greenhouse until the rains return. These long dry periods in spring seem to be the norm now here as I don`t really remember anymore when we had the last wet April, it must have been years ago. I am trying to adapt and now do most of the soil cultivation and new plantings in autumn and early winter. Any rearranging of plants in borders is done at this time as well. Despite the lack of rain the allotment is looking very green now with many perennials starting into growth and some splashes of colour here and there from Camassia quamash, Euphorbia epithymoides, Muscari armeniacum and Veronica gentianoides. The apple trees are now in full flower as well and I hope for a good harvest later this year as the bees are out in numbers on sunny days and we did not have a significant frost so far which could destroy the flowers.


Fruit tree flowers and yellow Euphorbia epithymoides
providing some colour

The allotment is looking much greener now,
just the rain is missing

Apple tree 'Sunset' is in full flower at the moment

The small seaside garden I created last year is starting to come into its own with Armeria maritima and Tulipa clusiana flowering at the moment. There is also a small Dianthus with very similar-looking flowers to the Armeria but for which I cannot find the label anymore. I am looking forward to see how it will develop as there will be a lot more plants flowering later this year such as several Eryngium, Glaucium corniculatum, Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’ and Dianthus carthusianorum. Narcissus ‘Pippit’ which I planted next to the pond has started flowering quite late but looks very pretty now. The flowers are scented as well which adds to the appeal. There are quite a lot of tulips flowering, opening their flowers in the warm sunshine. The most unusual-looking tulip flowering on my allotment must surely be Tulipa ‘Green Mile’ which has pointed yellow petals, each with a broad green stripe. I planted the bulbs last autumn and I am very pleased now with how it looks like. Hopefully it will come back every year.


The new seaside garden is looking quite pretty now

Narcissus 'Pipit' flowering next to the wildlife pond

The unusual-looking tulip 'Green Mile'

 I planted several wild tulips in the wildflower meadow. The first to flower is Tulipa tarda with small yellow and white star-like flowers which are closely hugging the ground. These are closely followed by bright red Tulipa orphanidea 'Lizzy' and yellow flowered Tulipa orphanidea 'Flava'. Tulipa linifolia is another bright red tulip which is flowering now in the mini-prairie. Thinking of it, this specific vivid red flower colour is very distinctive and I cannot really think of any other plants with the same intensively red flower colour. 


Tulipa orphanidea 'Lizzy' in the wildflower meadow

Tulipa orphanidea 'Flava'

Tulipa linifolia in the mini-prairie

Tulipa saxatilis with its large pink flowers really stands out and looks very pretty. This tulip is only growing well on my new allotment which has heavier and more moisture-retentive soil. On lighter soil Tulipa saxatilis only seems to grow leaves but hardly any flowers. As I mentioned earlier there are lots of bees out and about on the allotment on sunny days. Most of them are bumblebee queens still trying to establish nests, and many different solitary bees. One of my favourite solitary bee is the two-coloured mason bee (Osmia bicolor) which nests in empty snail shells. I was so happy to see it again on my allotment this year as last year we had such a cold spring this bee must have struggled a lot as I did not see a single bee flying around. After watching the little bees for a while this year I realised they were searching for empty snail shells to establish their nests in places which did not have any snail shells yet. So on a walk at Easter I made it my mission to collect as many empty snail shells as I could find which was quite successful as I found lots. After scattering the snail shells on the allotment one of them was nearly immediately occupied by a two-coloured mason bee female who, after a short inspection, seemed to like the snail shell and started to build her nest. After 2 days the nest was finished, sealed and covered with little pieces of straw which the female bee painstakingly collected from the surrounding area over several hours. 


Tulipa saxatilis

A two-coloured mason bee is inspecting a new snail shell

The two-coloured mason bee has finished her nest
and covered everything with pieces of straw

Two-coloured mason bees love pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris) and are one of the main pollinators for this plant where both occur. I have planted lots of pasque flowers on my allotment which might have helped to attract this little bee to my allotment in the first place as they are normally mainly found on calcareous grassland and in open deciduous woodland on chalk and limestone soils. As pasque flowers produce copious amounts of pollen they are also attractive to many other bees such as bumblebees which collect the pollen to feed their offspring. If there are lots of solitary bees, especially mining bees, then bee flies are normally not far away as they lay their eggs into the nests of solitary mining bees. After hatching in the solitary bee nest the bee fly larva eats the pollen store which was intended as food for the bee larva, and after this has gone the bee larva gets eaten as well. This is bad news for the bee of course, but bee-flies and bees have lived side-by-side for many millennia, and there is no evidence that bee-flies cause any major decline in bees. On the contrary, if you see many bee flies in an area it normally means that there is a healthy population of solitary bees as well. As I am always on the lookout for more unusual insects I was happy to find a honeysuckle sawfly (Abia lonicerae/aenea agg) for the first time on my allotment which was flying around the honeysuckle plant (Lonicera periclymenum). This is quite a large sawfly with a golden metallic abdomen. The larvae feed on honeysuckle but can also be found on snowberry (Symphoricarpos).


Bumblebees love Pulsatilla vulgaris

Lots of bee flies are out and about again

A pretty honeysuckle sawfly (Abia lonicerae/aenea agg)

I hope May will bring some much-needed rain and warmer temperatures with everything bursting into growth and flowers. Night frosts will be soon a thing of the past as well. I will be back with more tales from my allotment in June. 
 

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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