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My Wildlife Allotment December 2019

The days are often cold, grey and wet now with only an occasional glimpse of the sun. The few frosts we had have been a relief from the sogginess, turning the allotment into a winter wonderland. Many seed heads are still standing despite the frequent rain. The grasses look beautiful especially when covered in frost but best of all are the seed heads of Phlomis russeliana, standing tall and strong.


The allotment after a frosty night

Seed heads and grasses
are providing structure in winter

Phlomis russeliana has one of the best seed heads

A few plants have not succumbed to winter dormancy yet and are still flowering such as Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Herbstsonne’,  Bidens heterophylla and the incredibly long-flowering Helenium autumnale ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’. I really like Helenium autumnale and the few plants I have grown from seed did reasonably well until 2 years ago when we had the really hot and dry summer. The plants came back this year but did not look very good as they suffered again in the drought we had. I came across ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ as a more drought-resistant variety and planted it in summer. So far it has exceeded my expectation. The plant keeps on flowering and looks happy and healthy.


The last Rudbeckia laciniata flowers

Helenium autumnale 'Sahin's Early Flowerer'

Bidens heterophylla flowers look pretty after a frost

My medlar tree changed colour quite late and it looked quite pretty with rusty orange leaves. I really like trees as they give structure and height to a garden, and have now planted a few more trees such as a plum, a few more apple trees, a cherrycot (a hybrid between a sand cherry and an apricot) and a peach. Still to be planted are a quince and an almond tree which both have beautiful blossom in spring. The pond has been frozen over a couple of times and most plants are dormant now. There is not much to do around the pond apart from removing leaves which have blown into the water. I have to be careful not to remove the pond snails as well as they seem to like the leaves a lot.


The old allotment with the medlar tree on the right

Many grasses such as Eragrostis
surround the wildlife pond

The wildlife pond after a particularly cold night

One frosty morning I observed an interesting phenomenon. All plants were covered in a frost, including the seed heads of Veronicastrum virginicum, but the tips of each seed head were free from frost which gave them an interesting pattern. I don’t have an explanation and wonder if other gardeners have observed a similar phenomenon. Most seed heads of Echinacea purpurea are still standing tall but a few have succumbed to the constant rain now. In their native North American home Echinacea purpurea experiences relatively dry winters which might be a reason that they often don’t survive winter here in the UK especially when planted in clay soil. My allotment soil is very well-drained and luckily I have not had any losses so far.


Interesting frost pattern on
Veronicastrum virginicum seed heads

Echinacea purpurea has long-lasting seed heads

Seed heads and grasses are dominating now
on the allotment

Molinia caerulea changes into a pretty rusty colour in autumn but the leaves and seed heads will eventually disintegrate, at the latest in the middle of winter. Longer lasting are the leaves and seed heads of Miscanthus grasses and especially beautiful is Miscanthus nepalensis which has an elegance many of the more commonly planted Miscanthus sinensis do not have. But the latter grass has one advantage; if the right varieties are planted the leaves turn into beautiful autumn colours of rusty red and orange.


Molinia caerulea looks pretty in autumn

The elegant seed heads of Miscanthus nepalensis

Miscanthus sinensis with colourful leaves

At the beginning of November I started feeding the birds again. I have six bird feeders and the most popular one with the small birds such as tits and sparrows seems to be the sunflower seed feeder on the new allotment which I have to fill up every two days. The starlings are not interested in the sunflower seeds but they love the fat balls and suet block. Several times I watched small flocks of them descending on the food, squabbling with each other and making quite a lot of noise. But I love seeing them on my allotment as they are charming and beautiful birds. My little allotment robin is more visible now with the days getting colder. On really cold days he follows me around again, waiting for some unearthed worms and larvae. The frogs have mostly disappeared now, hibernating at the bottom of the ponds or in the compost heaps. A few times on very mild days they woke up and I could see them moving around in the water.


The starlings are making quite a racket

My allotment robin waiting for food

This frog woke up on a mild day

With Christmas just around the corner I thought I would treat myself to a present, something I long desired but never had the incentive to buy until now: my own greenhouse. It will arrive on the allotment in about 2 weeks time and all I have to do is to put the many different pieces together into a functioning greenhouse. Wish me luck! More on my new greenhouse adventure in my next blog in a month’s time.

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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