We tend to associate pollinators with the heady days of summer and vibrant blooms, but in fact many species of bees actively forage for food all year round, even in winter when pollen and nectar sources are particularly scarce. Bees and other pollinators are key to productive gardens, and many plants rely on them for pollination. If we didn’t have bees, we would be without many of the fruit and vegetables we take for granted.
As we approach spring, ravenous queen bees will be looking for substance so they can produce the next generation of worker bees. As these hardworking insects keep the food on our plates, why not return the favour and make sure you have a range of pollinator-friendly plants to keep your local bees happy throughout the year. Below we have highlighted five plants loved by bees, which give beautiful blooms and come into flower early in the year.
Galanthus nivalis – Snowdrop
Snowdrops are best planted in partial shade, so do well under deciduous trees. Plant snowdrop bulbs in the autumn or ‘in the green’ when they have finished flowering.
Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimis ‘Tricolor’
Crocus also come into flower particularly early, usually when the rest of your garden plants are still in winter slumber. The beautiful buds will lift the spirits in late winter, opening to offer plenty of food to passing bees. Mass plant the bulbs in drifts in sunny locations.
This flowering currant is particularly ornamental and the rich pink flowers appear in spring. Fantastic as a feature plant in a border, but can also be used as a hedging plant.
Erica carnea – Heather
Another winter-flowerer, these pretty perennials give the added bonus of being evergreen too. As with all heathers, it prefers acidic soil, so use ericaceous compost if you’re soil leans more alkaline.
Hyacinthoides non-Scripta – Bluebell
Bluebells are perfect for woodland gardens, or giving the traditional country cottage feel to a border. They prefer semi-shade and moist soil. It is easiest to plant the bulbs in autumn or in late winter/early spring, as long as the soil is workable.