Sunday, 15 February 2015

On The Menu in February for Bees

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. 


Anemone blanda
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. 


Choisya ternata
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? 

Iris reticulata
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. 

Gorgeous Galanthus
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'.


Crocus tommasinianus

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 tommasinianusCrocus 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.


Hurrah for Hellebores (and Lonicera fragrantissima
  
in the background)
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

37 comments:

  1. Beautiful flowers!
    I especially like the Iris
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!
    Lea

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    1. Thank you, Lea! Iris reticulata is wonderful. I plant more of them every year. Happy GBBD to you!

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  2. How fun with Choisya flowering for you all year round! Barbecue all year round sounds fun too, very Australian :)

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    1. I am practising my Aussie accent as I type and if I drank beer, I guess you know which one I'd be enjoying with my barbie.

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  3. Isn't it great when the early spring flowers begin to open.?

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    1. It is! And when the sun is shining, I sit outside, enjoy the flowers, and eat a sandwich known in our house as the "hope of summer sandwich". There is no better lunch known to gardenerkind!

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  4. Choisya flowering all year round? Every year again it's exciting to see the first early flowers. And every year we make blogs about snowdrops, crocuses and hellebores and yet it is never boring.
    Hope spring is continuing, the sun is shining here, I don't want frost and snow anymore.
    Happy gardening!

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    1. It is exciting, Janneke - and I never tire of Crocus, snowdrops and hellebores, although I did think twice about posting on them, but then I decided that they are so valuable to bees that they deserve more words. Enjoy that sun!

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  5. I think you've highlighted some wonderful plants. My crocuses look a way off flowering yet though, the snowdrops have only just emerged.

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    1. You still have yours to look forward to. The Crocus here popped open today. What a difference a day makes - that has to be good news if you are still waiting for flowers.

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  6. Thank you for this foretaste of Spring. No doubt we will also get our share of crocuses and hellebore but it will be an other month at the very least. It is beautifully bright and sunny as I write this, but -25 degrees!

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    1. Ouch! That's very cold! Here's hoping spring arrives very soon.

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  7. Hi Sarah, crocus and Anemone Blanda - that's what I need to make sure is on my shopping list this Autumn as I've got several areas that could use spring under-planting. Thanks for reminding me!

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  8. I always think of wildlife when I am planting, and the variety of critters brings me much pleasure. I love the image of your crocus lawn! I have often wished my climate would be kinder to bulbs such as crocus and tulips.

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    1. I am so glad you think of wildlife when you are planting. It really is the most satisfying way to garden.

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  9. You've plenty on offer for any wildlife visitor that chooses to pop into your garden Sarah. I only wish we could see bees at this time of the year, I've plenty on offer, sadly it's too cold!

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    1. But come that sunny day, you will be so glad that you made the effort to have something to offer them.

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  10. I wonder if growing crocuses in the lawn would be a way of keeping the mice off them?

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    1. I suspect it does. Crocus in our borders closest to the Common get decapitated by some creature - I am not sure what, but those in grass never show any sign of damage.

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  11. All the spring things are hurrying to upstage one another. Every day, a new surprise. Thanks for sharing yours.

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  12. Wow, to be able to look out the window and see anything but snow at this time of year would certainly be a treat. It's lovely where you live....so much color.

    Jen

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    1. So far this winter we have had very little snow. Of course, we get terribly excited when it falls, but then we want it to melt and the sun to shine by the following day. Here's hoping that your snow clears very soon.

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  13. Happy bee-watching Sarah. Yes, I must plant more crocuses, although they are rarely out before March here.

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  14. I love the thought of the bees snuggled up in the petal quilt at night!

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    1. It's great, isn't it? The first time I saw it, I thought the bee had died in the flower. I was quite surprised when I realised what was really going on.

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  15. It seems like every year I order earlier and earlier-blooming bulbs. I'm glad the bees benefit from it, but I have to admit my reasons are more selfish--I need that color and life so badly by late winter! I guess I can relate to how they must feel, a little bit. :)

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    1. If only we could lounge about in Crocus flowers too!

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  16. Gorgeous little Iris Reticulata, I can't wait for mine to flower. I have just been reading on another blog (sorry, can't recall which one!) where the writer plants lots of small pots with Iris Reticulate so that she can pick them up and have a really good look at those complex flowers. I totally get that!

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    1. That is a good idea. The path to the Farmhouse is flanked by Iris reticulata and I do grow a few in pots to pop in any gaps. This year I will be giving them a really good look before I plonk them in the soil. The blogger is right - they are complex flowers and worth examination.

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  17. Hi Sarah, You have so many beautiful Spring blooms! It's wonderful that Old Man Winter is on his way out of your neck of the woods! I'm very excited to see the ground in the Northern Hemisphere!

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    1. We are fortunate here - there are snow showers around the UK today, but here it is bright and sunny. Old Man Winter has given us a wide berth this year (so far!)

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  18. This time of year is such a joy in the garden, I just love the snowdrops, irises and crocuses. I have even seen a few bumblebees in my garden already, probably some queens as they were low flying and very slow – I think that’s the queens, out flying first in the spring.
    One other type of flower I have discovered in my garden which is very good for bumblebees is fuchsias. They just love them! My fuchsias flower almost all year round so is an important food source as I have so many of them.

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    1. That is the joy of living in London. I fear the Fuchsia might take a winter nap here. Having said that, if Choisya is managing to bloom, so might Fuchsia. I will be giving them a go this year - I am looking forward to seeing the bees on them - and trying the berries. You have converted me, Helene!

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  19. My garden is still frozen solid and sound asleep. There isn't a crocus in sight. :( But I share your mission to provide food and shelter for wildlife in my garden. A garden with wildlife doesn't feel like a garden to me!

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