Planning ahead for spring - bulbs for bees!

I thought it would be a good idea to get thinking ahead to what can be planted now to help the first emerging insects like queen bees and our hibernating species of butterfly like peacocks, small tortoiseshells and commas.

So, what are your favourites? I'm a big crocus fan, I think the display of colour you can get in a lawn or border is a great way to liven up the garden after a long winter and the nectar they produce is popular with bees. What bulbs or other early spring flowering plants will you be adding this winter or what do you have already?

As always, any pictures of your spring displays are welcome!

Warden Intern at Otmoor.

  • Double whammy for my bees here - following up on an offer from Mirror, I am currently awaiting delivery of three Astrantias (one each of three named varieties & highly recommended by our Higgy) for the princely sum of £4.48 (+ £3.99 p&p) plus 20 double patio tulips FREE!!  Seems like a reasonable offer - will start off my new cottage bee/insect garden nicely!


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • In reply to WendyBartter:

    I intend to plant some Astantias for next year, I already have some crocus bulbs in, and I have quite a few Salvia (Hot Lips) shrubs which the bees really love and of course Lavenda. I have quite a few fuschias and the bees are always attracted to those too!! I have quite a few tulip bulbs in but will plant some more as some bulbs get eaten by the slugs. Will have a look around and see what other bulbs would be good food for the bees!! Like to try to provide bee friendly plants and bulbs  as much as I can.

  • In reply to wildlifeloversharon:

    One of the greatest successes  in the Fuschia world seems to be 'Lady Boothby' the climbing variety -It has been flowering for months & still covered in blooms even now & the bees are very attracted to it!  I have two plants, both grown in pots & they just keep making more & more flowering stems & can reach quite great heights - this was a newspaper garden section offer (Mail probably) from about four years ago - Sickly looking on arrival but thrived & so pleased with them!


     2013 photos & vids here

    eff37 on Flickr

  • In reply to WendyBartter:

    I've got plenty of Crocus, daffs, tulips, alliums, hyacinth and lavender lol.... hopefully they should be satisfied with them lol....

    Cheers, Jason

  • In reply to Jason:

    I always plant winter violas which will go on blooming well into spring. I've put some more dwarf iris into a second pot because they last quite a long time. They seem to be next after the snowdrops.

    I'm about to split a pulmonaria which provides early nectar. There are some seedlings in dry places I'm going to transplant so they do better. My pieris provides a lot of nectar early in the year and always attracts insects.

    I have an astrantia in bloom now! It's been very shy for two years so I'm delighted it's finally flowered.

  • In reply to Grandmamac:

    Winter violas are always longlasting and aways so colourful,I usually plant winter pansies but find if we get a lot of wet weather which we certainly do, down here in Devon, they tend to stop flowering and get black mould on their leaves.

    Your Lady Boothby fushia sounds lovely Wendy, I have not got any climing varieties but I will look out for one of those!

  • In reply to wildlifeloversharon:

    I have a Winter honeysuckle (lonicera fragrantissima) which flowers from January to March.   This is not a climber but a shrub which has creamy-white highy-scented flowers which are very popular with early insects especially bumblebees.  

  • In reply to Greenlady:

    Hi Greenlady,

    Yes I think I know which one you mean and the bees do love those, I will have a look at the local garden centre for one!!

  • In reply to wildlifeloversharon:

    Hello All,

    I'm a little late replying to this one but Springtime plants for early pollinators have been in my plans recently and I will share my thoughts and plans here as this is a really important time of the year for early pollinators.

    Our gardens can quite simply be a lifeline to all manner of early pollinators and other invertebrates. My own garden has been really lacking in Spring planting and colour so I'm hoping that some things already planted and some soon to be planted should help to start addressing this shortfall...

    So back in November I planted the following spring flowering bulbs and all of these have been picked due to their pollinating capabilities...

    1. Crocus chry. Romance
    2. Crocus chry Gypsy Girl
    3. Crocus chry Advance
    4. Crocus chry Snow Bunting
    5. Crocus Sieberi Tricolor
    6. Crocus Tommasinianus Whitewell
    7. Crocus chry Cream Beauty
    8. Anemone Coronaria
    9. Anemone SR Mr Fokker
    10. Allium SR Cowanii
    11. Allium Sphaerocephalon
    12. Fritillaria meleagris
    13. Ornithogilum Umbellatum

    The crocuses and fritillaries have been planted under the lawn and I hope they will gradually spread as the years go on.

    Camassia is another interesting addition to a Spring garden and will naturalise easily in damp conditions. It will also tolerate dry ground in summer which makes it perfect for the garden here. I planted a few two years ago and last Spring they were visited by early Bumblebees so I have bought three different varieties to plant this year. This is a bit of an experiment as I want to see if any varieties are better than others at attracting pollinators! As well as the common variety I have added a white variety and another named Camassia Esculenta.  

    Here's a picture of the more common blue Camassia...

    So that's the bulbs planted (over 300 in total!)

    My plans are to now add some more bare root shrubs and trees into the wildlife hedge row to give spring flowers and winter berries. Yesterday I ordered the following bare root plants to add in now as this is an ideal time for planting bare root shrubs and trees...

    1. Alder Buckthorn - Rhamnus frangula
    2. Bird Cherry - Prunus padus
    3. Cotoneaster franchetii
    4. Guelder Rose - Viburnum opulus
    5. Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia
    6. James Grieve Apple - Malus domestica 'James Grieve' (Apple tree, thought we needed some fruit for ourselves also!)

    That's spring bulbs and the wildlife hedge taken care of so what else is good for Spring pollinators I thought and then remembered the Pulmonaria I used to have at the old house which was brilliant and for some unknown reason I omitted bringing some with me!

    So I was back on line today spending my Christmas money again and ordered...

    1. Pulmonaria  'Cotton Cool'
    2. Pulmonaria saccharata 'Dora Bielefeld'
    3. Pulmonaria lungwort, Officinalis
    4. Pulmonaria unknown pink hybrid from someone’s garden!
    5. Pulmonaria Bowles Red

    All of these are also bare root so I will have lots to get planted in the next week or two and then an exciting wait until Spring to see what performs and what doesn't!!..

    I hope this is of interest and gives a few ideas for anyone else thinking forward to their Spring plants for early pollinators. This is a bout the last chance to get some of these things in and established for Spring so a good job to crack on with....

    The funny twist to this story is that when we were quizzed by people as to what I spent our Christmas money on, my wife said "clothes and shoes" and then my six yr old said "clothes, shoes, toys..."

    It came round to my turn so I said "plants and trees for the garden" and I got a few disapproving glares, I was told "you were supposed to be spending it on yourself buying something you wanted!" I replied "I did, I want my wildlife in the garden to be happy and well fed!!!!" :-)



  • In reply to higgy50:

    We have a lot of different fruit trees which provide blossom from February (almond) through to April (late apples). Your lists look really useful & you've come up with lots of others which I'll have a look at. We are on top of chalk cliffs with 6 inches of topsoil so a lot of things just won't grow.  

    Best wishes

    Hazel in the Gironde estuary, France