I grew up in a hospitable home and while my culinary skills may never set the world alight (indeed they might arguably give the world a dicky tummy), my desire to replicate this wonderful part of my childhood extends beyond the dining table and out into the garden. I don't mean that I am in a permanent state of barbecuing, although that would be fun, rather that I like to offer food to wildlife, not just in the feeders we have dotted around the garden, but also in the form of the plants I choose to grow.
I have seen bees or butterflies during every month in my garden, so I have challenged myself to continue to increase the quantity and variety of forage on offer all year round. It is the most wonderful way to garden.
In any year there will be the rule breakers - those plants which strut their stuff irrespective of the fact that it isn't their turn to take centre stage. Choisya ternata appears to have given up on the concept of waiting in the wings and has reinvented itself as a year-round flowerer, as has Pyracantha. This is all marvellously above the call of duty, but who is to say that they will manage the same generosity of flowering period in the future?
The pollinators' pantry is surprisingly well-stocked in February and it contains too many wonderful plants to focus on here, so I have selected three glorious February flowers which the bees and I couldn't live without.
February without snowdrops is like Friday without chocolate (or any other day of the week in my humble opinion). Good old Galanthus nivalis not only raises our spirits in the darkest days of winter, these little beauties provide a valuable source of quality pollen. They flower for weeks on end, probably because pollination can be a bit hit-and-miss at this time of year given the weather and the reduced number of pollinators on the block. But when the weather is right, bees will be busy working those snowdrops and lifting our spirits even higher. If you don't already grow snowdrops, now is the time to order some and plant them 'in the green'.
The Crocus lawn is coming into flower now. It is only small, but it is a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees. Bumblebees are always the most entertaining foragers; I love to see them dive headfirst into the flowers of Crocus tommasinianus. Crocus flowers close at night and bees will lie swathed in the petals until morning when they can enjoy breakfast in bed (such is the life of a queen bee). If you are able to grow Crocus and have not yet tried a mass planting of them, please think about adding Crocus tommasinianus to your autumn bulb list so that you, too, can sit with a warm drink on a sunny winter day and watch bees. I can’t recommend this pastime highly enough.
Garden blogs are usually swamped by photos of Hellebores at this time of year and for good reason: they are an all-round fabulous plant. Not only are they beautiful; their evergreen glossy foliage makes a stylish weed-suppressing ground cover and best of all, they are a valuable source of nectar for honey bees and queen bumblebees. Queen bumblebees can hibernate for up to six months. Consequently, they wake in desperate need of food. If there are no flowers and no nectar, these bees may die. Fortunately the plants which make all the difference to the bees happen to look wonderful too. Isn't gardening with wildlife in mind wonderful?
You may rightly have spotted that the photos in this post were taken in the dark. Unfortunately I was so busy digging that I forgot to take any pictures until sundown. I am linking this post to http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/, where you will find plenty more posts written by bloggers who don't wait until dusk to photograph their plants. I am now heading over to May Dreams Gardens to see if I can steal some menu ideas for next February. Happy GBBD.
P.S. If you want to see cute bee pictures, there's one here http://thegardeningshoe.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/bottoms-up-bees.html