Wednesday, 15 February 2017

February Flowers for Bees

While weeding a border yesterday, I was dragged from my winter torpor by a passing bee. Without a second thought for the hot drink I had been promising myself, I pursued the bee to see where it might be heading. 
There is plenty on the menu for early bees. Sitting prettily just above the surface of the soil are snowdrops, Crocus and Iris reticulataHellebores hang their heads shyly, as if scared to be noticed. Who can blame them when they are towered over by winter flowering shrubs pumping out great nostril-loads of scent and screaming for attention?
Snowdrops growing through Ivy. A match made in heaven

I do love a scented shrub. At the moment, the sweetest of the fragrance factories are the shrubby honeysuckles, Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty'. Flowering from January to March in my garden, they are a valuable source of nectar for early bumble bees. Delicate creamy-white flowers hang on almost leafless branches. Their scent is not as heady as Sarcococca which is belting out fragrance at the moment, but Lonicera certainly packs enough of a punch to get attention. 
Lonicera fragrantissima grows to about two metres, so it needs space. It might be big, but it is not a dense shrub and it looks great with winter flowering bulbs and hellebores at its feet. Later in the year, dark green hellebore leaves make a wonderful foil for the lighter leaves of Lonicera
Crocus brightening up the car park border
Happy in sun or part shade, if there isn't room to let it romp, it may be grown as a wall shrub, but take care not to over-prune. I only ever trim a branch if it is encroaching on a path. I certainly wouldn't cut away more than two or three branches in any one year. Pruning should be undertaken straight after flowering. 
Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' has purple-red stems in spring and early summer. I can't say that this makes a great deal of difference to me as it like the flowers, foliage and the form of both Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty'. Best of all, they get the bee seal of approval.

I am joining with other bloggers around the world to celebrate Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Why not pop over to and see what is blooming in gardens around the globe?

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Planting for Wildlife

I recently saw a post on social media from a gardener who was worried about overwintering her Pyracantha cuttings. While many replies were supportive, they were littered with calls for the gardener to destroy her plants. My hackles were raised. Pyracantha is hugely valuable to wildlife. Fancying myself as a knight on a charger, I thundered to fair Pyracantha’s defence (only I’m a gardener at a laptop and I’m a little bit scared of thunder). 
My thoughts have been published on the fabulous Guardian Gardening Blog. I know it’s a big cheek, but I would be ever so grateful if you might take the time to pop over there and comment please so that I don’t look like a complete Sarah No-Mates. The link is below. Thank you.

I'll be back here soon with gorgeous February flowers for bees.