During winter the one sound that I miss in the garden or garden centre is the constant buzz of busy pollen gathering bees. We need our bees and although we only see a handful or so of different varieties in our gardens there are more than a couple of hundred varieties in the United Kingdom.
To keep our plants seeding and fruiting we just can’t do without out them and as their numbers are increasingly in decline they need as much help as they can get from all of us.
Not all bees live in hives or little nests above ground, many build nests in long grass or underground and as spring approaches those lucky bees that haven’t drowned during our worst wet winter will be crawling out of their nests, wiping the mud from their eyes and looking for their first spring meal.
There’s nothing worse than going to work on an empty stomach so their larders or should I say our gardens need to be well stocked up with some early flowering plants that will give them something to buzz about.
By growing a wide range of flowering plants from spring until late autumn we should be able to keep our bees happy as well as ourselves.
Bees prefer single flowering plants because double flowers are often sterile, so a few early perennials such as pullmonarias, wild primroses, hellebore hybrids, dead nettles, cowslips, aubretia, bugle, arabis and the perennial daisy will get them started.
Some early flowering shrubs are Amelanchiers, Mahonias, Forsythias, Berberis, Daphnes and of course the Chaenomeles that I wrote about a fortnight ago.
Trees play an important role too, not only do they cover a larger area and often have more flowers, but are another tier above the ground hopefully already buzzing with bees. They also fill the gaps and help join are gardens up giving our bees as well as those other beneficial wildlife easier movement from garden to garden.
Later in the year if you notice that a shrub or rose has leaves with a perfect rounded shape cut out don’t panic or run for the insecticide it’s just a leaf cutter bee nesting somewhere close by, although your plant may not look perfect anymore just think how its helping to increase our hard working bee population.