Posted on 30.09.2022 |
Added in Tales From My Wildlife Allotment

The little bit of rain we had earlier this month unfortunately did not last long and everything is now quite dry again. At least the grass has turned green again and started growing so I had to get the mower out of the shed, the first time since June! Autumn has arrived on the allotment, the nights are getting longer and I can no longer go to the allotment at 6 in the morning as it is still pitch black dark. Seed heads appearing everywhere and the many grasses are adding texture and structure to the autumn plot. The garden looks magical now after cold nights with everything covered in dew and sparkling and glittering in the early morning sunlight.

1 autumn has arrived on the allotment with misty mornings and spider webs 58
Autumn has arrived on the allotment
with misty mornings and spider webs
2 the area around the pond is looking good with lots of seed heads and grasses 43
The area around the pond is looking good
with lots of seed heads and grasses
3 miscanthus sinensis sorghastrum nutans and the seed heads of sanguisorba hakusanensis lilac squirrel 6
and the seed heads of ‘Lilac Squirrel'

Spiders are numerous on the allotment now, and on dewy mornings hundreds of spider webs, normally invisible, are glistening between the plants, looking like precious pearl necklaces, so pretty and endlessly fascinating. And it is not just the larger orb spider webs which seem to be everywhere, but lower to the ground, between short-mown grass and lumps of soil, are smaller sheet-like webs belonging to money spiders.  Money spiders are probably the commonest spiders in the UK and they are sometimes so numerous that entire lawns are covered in webs made by thousands of tiny spiders.

4 veronicastrum virginianum with spider webs 65
Veronicastrum virginianum with spider webs
5 eryngium planum also makes a great place for spiders to spin their webs 64
also makes a great place
for spiders to spin their webs
6 early morning on the allotment 98
Early morning on the allotment

My hardy and half-hardy sundews (Drosera) which I overwintered in the greenhouse have spent all summer outside and have been busy catching little insects on their sticky leaves. They must be happy as they have produced lots of flowers which are surprisingly pretty. The flower colour ranges from white to dark pink and some have larger flowers than others. The flowers of Drosera filiformis are bright pink and quite large with only one flower opening at a time lasting only a day or two, but with a long overall flowering time, similar to daylilies. The leaves of many Drosera species, especially the ones growing as a rosette with small roundish leaves, turn a glowing red in strong sunshine. Combined with the glistening dew droplets which attract passing insects they are a sight to behold, especially in early morning sunshine. Another carnivorous which has leaves that turn a pretty red in strong sunshine is Sarracenia purpurea, one of the North American pitcher plants. This plant is very hardy and survives outside without any problems, even when covered in snow or frozen solid by a hard frost.

7 the20pretty flower of drosera filiformis 42
The pretty flower of Drosera filiformis
8 the leaves of drosera aliciae turn a pretty red in sunshine 29
The leaves of Drosera aliciae turn a pretty red in sunshine
9 sarracenia purpurea 42
Sarracenia purpurea

I have started a little fern collection in my greenhouse now which is unheated in winter and often quite humid which ferns seem to like. I had planted several half-hardy ferns such as Doodia media from Australia and New Zealand, and Blechnum brasiliense from mountain regions in Brazil and Peru last year which are thriving. They both have amazing deep red new growth which looks very colourful. I have added a few more ferns now such as Arachniodes aristata ‘Variegata', , Woodwardia fimbriata and Blechnum spicant to give some colour and interest in the winter months. I am also growing Abutilon ‘Orange Hot Lava' which seems to love the greenhouse environment and flowers nearly non-stop with pretty deep orange-red flowers.

10 doodia media 93
Doodia media
11 blechnum brasiliense 80
Blechnum brasiliense
12 abutilon orange hot lava 54
Abutilon ‘Orange Hot Lava'

Outside there are still some late flowers such as Solidago speciosa, Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch' and several Helianthemum species which provide some colour on the September allotment. The prairie is still providing some interest with several asters, mainly , flowering which look good together with the seed heads of Echinacea purpurea and E. pallida and the grasses such as which has changed into pretty autumn colours now. The numerous seed heads provide good hiding places for many insects and spiders. Especially ladybirds seem to like sitting on the seed heads to soak up the sunshine. They will have enough to eat this autumn as aphids are very prolific at the moment, especially on the runner beans. I have several wasp nests on the allotment which are still very active. The wasps have helped with staying on top of the first wave of aphids in spring and early summer and are now busy again collecting the aphids from the second wave. I have wasp nests on the allotment every year and so far never had a problem with them. They don`t seem to be bothered by my presence nearby and completely ignore me. If I am walking in their flight path they bump into me but don`t seem to get annoyed and just continue on their way afterwards. Wasps feed meat to their larvae so have to collect a huge amount of insects, spiders and other small animals to keep their larvae fed and in the process remove a lot of pest animals from the allotment as well. The adult wasps do visit flowers as well for nectar so can act as pollinators too. So overall wasps are very useful and their nests should not be destroyed if they don`t pose a serious threat.

13 solidago speciosa aster x frikartii mC3B6nch and helianthemum provide colour on the september allotment 93
Solidago speciosa, Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch' and
Helianthemum provide colour on the September allotment
14 the prairie is looking nice with seedheads colourful grasses and asters flowering 60
The prairie is looking nice with seed heads,
colourful grasses and asters flowering
15 lots of ladybirds still on the allotment 67
Lots of ladybirds still on the allotment

I love the dainty flowers of which is easy to grow from seed. The plants are quite hardy and on my allotment overwinter easily outside in the ground. Interestingly when grown from seed the flower colours can vary quite a lot, from nearly white to purple. This year I had to wait quite a long time for the flowers to open as the plants did not like the hot and dry weather earlier his year, but now flowering finally started and to my surprise one of my plants seems to have nearly white flowers which is nice. Another plant which only starts flowering in September is Schizostylis coccinea. I grow two different varieties, S. coccinea ‘Zeal Salmon' and S. coccinea ‘Sunrise'. Both look wonderful at the moment, adding some fresh colour to the autumn garden. The plants grow well in rich moisture-retentive soil and will spread when happy.

16 dahlia merckii with white flowers 18
Dahlia merckii with white flowers
17 schizostylis coccinea zeal salmon 54
Schizostylis coccinea ‘Zeal Salmon'
18 schizostylis coccinea sunrise 31
Schizostylis coccinea ‘Sunrise'

I am still seeing a few butterflies on sunny days, but mostly just small and large whites. They are abundant on our allotment site as many people grow cabbages which the caterpillars feed on. The butterflies love to sip nectar from late flowers such as asters and . I have seen less butterflies this year than usual, probably because of the drought which killed many of the caterpillar food plants. Even my nettle patch, which is normally quite vigorous, died down completely in August this year and is only just coming back now. If you see very fresh looking and larger than usual bumblebees in your garden they are probably new bumblebee queens. They have to fatten up with lots of nectar for winter hibernation now so a garden with many late flowers is a good place for them to visit. A few of my wasp spiders are still remaining but most are gone now. The female spiders only live until autumn, the last thing they do before they die is producing a large egg sac which contains lots of spider eggs. The eggs will overwinter, protected inside the egg sac, and the spiderlings will hatch in spring. I had a lot less wasp spiders this year compared to last year, so hopefully next year will be a better year for them again.

19 small white butterfly waiting for the sun to come out 15
Small white butterfly waiting for the sun to come out
20 buff tailed bumblebee queen fattening up for winter hibernation 96
Buff-tailed bumblebee queen
fattening up for winter hibernation
21 there are still a few wasp spiders left 3
There are still a few wasp spiders left

Hopefully we will get some more rain soon to relieve the drought and help plants to recover, I will be back with more tales from my allotment next month.

Nadine Mitschunas
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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.

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