ECO CHALLENGE #1: Plant Now for Pollinators
Honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and many other pollinators start to emerge in early Spring when the weather warms up, but pollen and nectar can be hard to come by. If you want your garden to be a source of forage for these emerging pollinators, it’s important to know which plants actually provide pollen and nectar. You will see the early risers as soon as February, if sunny enough. Now is the time to get these plants into your garden if they are to produce an energy source next Spring.
Here’s a top 6 of plants that will support emerging bees and other insects next Spring...
1. Snowdrops. These are top of the list because they provide both early pollen and nectar. Snowdrops are great for planting in shady spots under shrubs and trees and their delicate hanging flowers are vital for pollinating insects. A beekeeper will often monitor snowdrops to see if the bees have started to collect pollen yet – a sure sign that the Queen has started to produce young. They can be planted in dormant bulb form, in Autumn.
2. Crocus. These are often the first flowers to appear in Spring, and bees love them. They generally prefer a sunny spot, and you will find that the purple-flowered varieties especially are the most popular with pollinators. Plant these in drifts in autumn.
3. Primrose. These are great flowering plants for pots and containers, and they give hungry bees a much-needed feast in Springtime. They love a sheltered position that gets lots of sun but can also manage in partial shade if need be.
4. Bluebell. These are often grown to give the garden a woodland feel, or as part of a cottage garden. Plant them in drifts around the base of trees and the pollinating insects will thank you later. They like dappled shade and slightly moist soil and are best planted as bulbs in the Autumn.
5. Heather. Winter-flowering heather is covered in tiny flowers that are packed full of pollen. It looks stunning at the front of borders or by paths and gates. Be aware though that most varieties of heather are not tolerant of the lime found in alkaline soils – so unless your soil is naturally acid or neutral, use ericaceous compost.
6. Muscari. Muscari, or Grape hyacinths, are always popular with pollinators and are a visually striking addition to your Spring garden. Again, these are bulbs, so you usually plant them in Autumn. They are happy in either sun or dappled shade.