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My Wildlife Allotment July 2022

The allotment is looking very colourful now with many plants such as Dianthus carthusianorum, Verbascum nigrum, Inula, Eryngium, Thalictrum flavum, Lychnis coronaria and Centaurea nigra adding splashes of colour. But the lack of rain is making gardening and caring for the plants more difficult as some plants are starting to suffer now. I normally try not to water my flowers and concentrate my watering efforts on the vegetables, but this year, without watering, even some of the drought-resistant plants would look unhappy now. Since March we only had significant rainfall on one occasion which was several weeks ago, otherwise we had only a few light showers which did not help much. I am glad many of my perennials are coping well so far with just occasional watering and the bees and other pollinators are happy as well as I see many visiting my flowers.


Verbascum nigrum
is looking good with all the grasses

Eryngium planum is starting to flower

The allotment is looking very colourful now

I am quite pleased with the South Africa garden this year which is full of colour. I did some major replanting last year, taking some of the plants out which had outgrown their space and added many new plants such as several Dierama, Agapanthus, Kniphofia and Senecio polyodon which has pink flowers. This year I added some more Osteospermum and Gazania, and also a lily which looks quite interesting with long narrow leaves. The lily has now opened the first of several huge flowers which looks quite spectacular. Hopefully at one point I find out its proper name as well. I love Eryngium and have planted several species now which all do well on my allotment. Most Eryngium are grown for their flowers, but Eryngium variifolium not only has quite spectacular-looking silvery white flowers, but also pretty variegated leaves which stay evergreen all winter.


Kniphofia and Osteospermum
flowering in the South Africa garden

An unknown lily flowering in the South Africa garden

Eryngium variifolium
is starting to flower in the Mediterranean garden

Glaucium flavum ssp. auranticum is flowering in the seaside garden at the moment. It does look very similar to Glaucium flavum, our native yellow-horned poppy which is at home on shingle beaches around the UK, but has orange flowers instead of yellow ones. The plant likes very well-drained soil and a lot of sunshine and I hope that I can collect some seeds this year to grow more plants as I really like it. I love daisy flowers and one of the best in my opinion is the purple flower of Berkheya purpurea, a plant native to South Africa. This plant is easy to grow from seed and is completely hardy on my allotment. Another Berkheya I am growing but which has yellow flowers is B. multijuga which grows a rosette of very spiky leaves from which the flowers appear at the end of June. This plant is also easy to grow from seed.


Glaucium flavum ssp. auranticum
is flowering in the seaside garden

I love the big daisy flowers of Berkheya purpurea<.i>

Berkheya multijuga
is flowering as well at the moment

Kniphofia ‘Moonstone’ is one of my favourite Kniphofia as it has well-filled and neat-looking flowers which look very pretty. As I grow many different Kniphofia there is always one in flower and looking good, with the earliest flowering in April and the latest in October. Kniphofia with their spike-like flowers give some useful height and a vertical aspect in the border. Similar are the flowers of many Digitalis species and especially useful are the tall flower spikes of some of the perennial Digitalis such as D. ferruginea and D. lanata. I grow both as well as a few others such as D. lutea which flowers earlier. Flowering now is D. lanata which has a rosette of narrow leaves in winter and spring from which a tall flower spike erupts in June. The flowers are loved by many bees, especially bumblebees. I have also seen the wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) visiting the flowers with the male establishing a territory around several foxglove flowers and waiting for a female to arrive to mate with her. The males can be quite aggressive and I have even seen them chasing away bumblebees. I normally have many Eremurus flowering at this time of year but this year there are only a few which is a shame. I think the flowers, which were just starting to develop, have been destroyed by the severe late frost we had in April. The leaves are not susceptible to late frosts but unfortunately the flowers are.


Kniphofia 'Moonstone'

Digitalis lanata

One of the few Eremurus flowering this year

I have planted two Clematis a couple of years ago at opposite sides of an arch, both C. viticella. One is ‘Polish Spirit’ with purple flowers, the other one ‘Alba Luxurians’ with white flowers with a green tip to the petals which looks quite interesting. The latter is doing very well, looking healthy and vigorous and is flowering profusely now. ‘Polish Spirit’ did very well until a few weeks ago when it started to suffer in the hot weather we had for a week. Some leaves turned brown but it still started flowering. Now to my disappointment all flowers have gone limp and the whole plant looks a bit sad. I don’t know what happened as I kept the plant well-watered. I will cut off the limp flowers and hope the plant recovers. Very strange as ‘Alba Luxurians’ which only grows about a meter away on the opposite side of the arch, is completely fine.

Lychnis chalcedonica and Thalictrum flavum are looking good on the new allotment. Both are quite eye-catching plants, one with vivid red flowers, the other a brilliant pale yellow. Both are easy to grow from seed and are happy in a sunny position in moisture-retentive soil. Thalictrum flavum also has quite pretty glaucous leaves. Clematis integrifolia is looking better than ever this year with the most flowers it ever had. And once the flowers are finished the fluffy seed heads stay on the plant for a long time and provide interest in the border. I have grown my plants from seed years ago and it took a while until they got going, but now they look great. Some perennials need a bit of patience when grown from seed. I found that some Eryngium take a few years until they grow into big enough plants to flower such as the E. zabelii I have planted in the Mediterranean garden as tiny plants which stayed tiny for 2 years and only started growing properly in the third year.


Clematis viticella 'Alba Luxurians'

Thalictrum flavum and Lychnis chalcedonica

Clematis integrifolia has lots of flowers this year

But this is not the case for Eryngium giganteum which self-seeds like mad and grows like a Triffid on my allotment. I have to remove many plants each year and only leave a few to flower and seed again as otherwise my allotment would by swamped by them. I do like the ghostly-white flowers which look very ornamental and last for a long time, and bees love the flowers as well, but this is one plant which needs to be watched! Another more well-behaved plant which is also very drought-resistant is Catananche caerulea. I love the brilliant blueish-purple flowers which open in abundance at the end of June and once the flowers finish they develop into pretty seed heads. Hoverflies and solitary bees love to visit the flowers. I have not seen many butterflies on my allotment so far this year but I know that I must have had some small tortoiseshell butterflies visiting not too long ago as I now found some caterpillars munching my nettles. I leave a small patch of stinging nettles in a corner next to my composters for butterfly and moth caterpillars and every year I normally have the caterpillars of the small tortoiseshell butterfly and also caterpillars of several moth species. Butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on nettles which grow on moist nutrient-rich ground in full sunshine as the plants will be at their most nutritious then. So if you do leave some nettles for caterpillars make sure the plants grow on good soil and in full sunshine.


Eryngium giganteum
has self-seeded in many places now

Hoverflies love Catananche caerulea

I found some small tortoiseshell caterpillars
in my nettle patch

Hopefully July will bring some rain for my parched allotment soil which would also save me the back-breaking task of lugging watering cans from the water troughs to the allotment. I will be back with more tales from my wildlife allotment in August.

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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