From Winter into Spring.
As the days lengthen and the snowdrops emerge from their dormancy, on those occasional and increasingly more frequent balmy winter days, we might be lucky enough to see a Queen bumblebee bumbling about in our gardens searching for a quick nectar fix for energy and a few micrograms of pollen to help her with egg production. Of course, if our gardens have nothing in flower during the November to March period of the year, she may run out of energy as she expands her range to other gardens.
These visits may seem insignificant in the great scheme of things, but, once spring gets into full swing, her dedication and our gardening support will pay dividends for both, as some of our spring flowering fruit trees wake up and she and her offspring start to do their vital work of pollination.
So, what should we be planting in our gardens that flower in the dormant season, for our pleasure and the Queen bumblebees needs? There are a number of shrubs that flower on and off during the winter and spring months, many of which are highly scented as well as being spectacular in their flower displays – Chimonanthus praecox, Cornus mas, Edgeworthia chrysantha, Hamamelis mollis, Lonicera fragrantissima, Mahonia japonica, Sarcoccoca confusa, and Viburnum farreri are amongst the best to search out, giving nectar and pollen to a hungry bumblebee. As winter roles gently into spring, the pollen provided by male willow (Salix) and hazel (Corylus) flowers can provide our bees with an important source of food to help her produce more eggs.
Alongside the shrubs, there are a number of bulbous and herbaceous plants that can provide a vital nectar and pollen source –
Anemone blanda, Crocus spps, Eranthus hyemalis, Galanthus nivalis and Helleborus spps will all provide a feeding opportunity for our native bumblebees as well as giving us pleasure.
Graham Porter FCIHort.
You can read more on this subject in Graham’s book, The Yorkshire Organic Gardener (ISBN 978-1-911148-24-1)