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My Wildlife Allotment June 2022

After a long spell of dry weather we finally had some rain. It really does make a difference if the plants are watered with rain water compared to tap water as rain does not normally contain chemicals and has a low pH. Plants seem much happier now and nearly grow before my eyes with more and more flowers opening everywhere. Papaver orientale has huge flowers which add a real wow factor to the allotment. I have plants with orange-red flowers which seem to be the most robust ones with nice sturdy flower stems. Plants I have grown from seed have mostly pink flowers which look nice as well. The white-flowered plants seem to be weaker and the flowers never really stay upright but flop all over the place which is a bit of a shame as I quite like white-flowered plants. Stipa gigantea, one of my favourite grasses, is just coming into flower, adding some height and movement to the borders. I love Euphorbia coralloides as it has pretty lime-green flowers which fit with nearly everything. The plants are not long-lived but gently self-seed on the allotment.


Some nice colour with Euphorbia 
and Amsonia tabernaemontana

All is growing well now on the allotment

Stipa gigantea and the first Papaver orientale 
are flowering now

One Euphorbia plant has self-seeded very conveniently next to the Amsonia tabernaemontana which has pale-blue flowers. This combination of pale-blue and lime-green could not have been planted any better by me so sometimes it really pays to let nature do its own thing. I have a few shady areas under some of the larger fruit trees which I have planted with shade-loving plants. One of the best of the shade-lovers in my opinion is Lamium orvala which seems to be pretty much indestructible and flowers from spring to early summer with quite large pink flowers. I used to have just one plant from which I collected seed which I grew into more plants. I spread them around the shady areas and to my surprise one of the plants grown from seed turned out to have white flowers. I will collect seeds from this plant later in summer to see if I can grow more white-flowered plants which would be nice. 


Amsonia tabernaemontana and Euphorbia coralloides

Lamium orvala with the usual purple flowers

Self-seeded Lamium orvala with white flowers

The large flowers of Papaver orientale attract a lot of bees, especially bumblebees, which can be heard buzzing loudly inside the flowers to collect the pollen. The poppy flowers don`t produce any nectar but the pollen is protein-rich and of high quality so very sought-after by bees for feeding to their young. Another pretty plant flowering at the moment is Sisyrinchium striatum which adds some nice verticals to a flower border. The plant is very easy-going but needs to be watched as it self-seeds a lot if the seed heads are not removed in time. I have seen Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus growing wild at field edges and in overgrown fields on the Canary Islands where it looked really pretty between all the other flowers growing wild there. I planted bulbs of this plant on the allotment which seem to only survive for a year or two and then fade away which is a bit of a shame. I planted some more bulbs last autumn which are flowering now but will probably stop buying any new bulbs as it is so short-lived and does not seem to self-seed.


Big bold flowers of Papaver orientale

Sisyrinchium striatum

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus with Silene dioica

Several years ago I bought a mystery seed mix at a garden centre from which I grew several unusual plants. One of them is Scrophularia grandiflora which I have never seen for sale anywhere so far. It is quite a large and handsome plant with relatively large soft leaves which stay green most of the winter. In spring long flower stems appear with small yellow and orange flowers which seem to be mainly pollinated by wasps as I have not seen much else visiting the flowers. I like densely planted borders with no bare soil visible in summer. For this purpose I not only plant quite densely but also use a few ground cover plants. I recently acquired a new one called Geranium × cantabrigiense which has nice glossy leaves and vivid pink flowers. I will see if it likes my allotment but hopefully it will establish well. Another ground cover plant I use is native Veronica chamaedrys which I had originally planted in the wildflower meadow but which has slowly spread into adjacent borders. The flowers are a very pretty sky-blue colour, are opening in the late morning and stay open until the evening. I leave the plant to spread below the taller perennials where it quickly covers the ground.  Occasionally I do have to remove some plants if they have spread too enthusiastically but I leave most plants alone as the blue carpet of flowers in spring is just too good to be missed.


Scrophularia grandiflora

Scrophularia grandiflora

I love the blue flowers of Veronica chamaedrys

Kniphofia northiae is flowering in the South Africa garden at the moment. The flowers are very showy and can be seen from quite far away, but the best are the leaves which stay neat and green all year which cannot be said of all kniphofias. In the seaside garden the orange flowers of Eschscholzia californica are open in the sunshine and are complemented nicely by dark blue Veronica teucrium. I have planted only drought-resistant plants in this area and so far have not watered anything. It will be interesting to see how the plants will cope with drought stress. One of my favourite areas at the moment is the larger wildlife pond which looks quite colourful with Lychnis flos-cuculi, Ranuanculus flammula and Aquilegia alpina flowering. Newts, dragonfly larvae, water beetles and water snails can be seen in the water and several damselflies and dragonflies come for regular visits. 


Kniphofia northiae in the South Africa garden

The seaside garden with Eschscholzia californica 
and Veronica teucrium

The wildlife pond looking quite colourful now

One of the blue damselflies visiting my wildlife pond is the azure damselfly which is relatively common around ponds in the UK. One azure damselfly was resting on the yellow flower of Ranunculus flammula which provided a nice photo opportunity for me. After not having seen worker bumblebees for quite a long time they have now appeared in numbers which means that several bumblebee queens in the area have successfully established their nests. These worker bumblebees are always very busy, visiting many different flowers, collecting nectar and pollen to take back to the nest. Also out and about at the moment is the narcissus bulb fly (Merodon equestris) which is an excellent bumblebee mimic. But look more closely and you can see the short antennae and only one pair of wings. These flies also have much larger eyes than bumblebees.


The wildlife pond looking quite colourful now

Bumblebees are busy collecting pollen from poppy flowers

Narcissus bulb fly is a very good bumblebee mimic

After an initially warm May the weather has turned chilly again with some quite cold nights. Let’s hope June will bring some warmer, more summer-like weather as my squashes and sweetcorn are not very happy at the moment. I will be back with more tales from my wildlife allotment next month.

 

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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