Crocuses and Tulips usher in the warmer weather

Making the most of a sunny February day, I have ventured into the garden to check on the new bulbs and see which plants survived the -11C weather.

The Crocus and Tulip bulbs that I planted in Autumn 2012 are making great progress in the garden.

Today has seemed like the first time in a long long time that it hasn’t been so bitterly cold, snowy, icy, or rainy, that everyone has been forced to stay indoors and peer longingly outside at their garden.

In this last week, I have been able to have a quick look at its progress, but today has been sunny and dry enough to actually go and explore properly.

The yellow Crocus ‘Golden Bunch are ahead of the purple Crocus ‘Giant Ruby that I planted back in Autumn 2011, and are poised to open up and provide that essential early food source for bees.

Crocus 'Golden Bunch' on flower.
My Crocus ‘Golden Bunch’ flowers emerge.

Joining them are two types of Tulips (also planted last Autumn) – Tulip ‘Negrita (a deep crimson red), and Tulip ‘Madonna (a later flower white flower with green edges).

Tulip 'Negrita' and Tulip 'Madonna'
Tulip ‘Negrita’ and Tulip ‘Madonna’
Bulbs for 2013
The bulbs were planted in Autumn 2012.

Also, I have amazed myself at having actually seen that for the first time in this garden – the Strawberry plants have survived a winter. Despite the -11C temperatures and being buried under snow, they’ve held on, including the new plants that I raised from the runners. Fingers crossed they can hold on for a bit longer and eventually provide the tasty fruits that they managed last year.

Is your garden now waking up too? Did you lose much in the cold weather? How well are your bulbs doing?

Crocus Giant Ruby welcome Spring 2012

Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ on full flower – spring seems to have arrived.

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' on flower.
Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ and now all out on flower.

Just wanted to quickly share this photo of a few of the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs on full flower.

This morning the windows have been opened, the birds are singing, and it’s intermittent jumper weather. Yes, it feels like Spring has arrived (for this weekend at least).

These were planted back in October/November.

Being Bee Friendly

Bees play a crucial role in the garden and also in the food production industry. Crocuses make the perfect early food for them.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has read my earlier posts, or who knows me, that I love bees and I dream of having my own hive one day. I bought a book called ‘Keeping Bees: Looking After An Apiary’ by Vivian Head some time ago, and watched with interest when Alex Langlands tried bee-keeping on the Victorian Farm series.

Bees are enchanting, and the benefits of their work really are significant in food production. Yet we have taken them for granted for so long.

According to the Cooperative’s ‘Plan Bee’ campaign:

“bees pollinate a third of the food we eat, so without them there would be no apples, onions or even tea!”

A Bee at work
The only bee that I managed to catch on camera.

I’ve been trying to consciously pick plants that bees really like – this has ranged from visiting garden centres and following the buzzing sound until I find the plant they’re going crazy for (as has been the case with the Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ and the Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’), and reading up on different plants that attract them.

Today I managed to plough my way through the Christmas shoppers (!!) to pick up 70 Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ bulbs whilst on a visit to Huntingdon Garden and Leisure. Crocuses are great for bees, because they flower early in about February or March when there are very few other flowers in the garden. This early bloom gives bees the perfect source of food as they hungrily emerge from hibernation.

Crocus 'Ruby Giant'
The Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’ bulbs need to go in now for Spring 2012 colour.

According to Vivian Head, bees also appreciate Winter Aconite, Snowdrops, Gorse, Hazel, Willow and Yew in the spring. I know that I don’t have any of these other plants, trees or bulbs in the limited space that I do have in my garden, so these crocuses will be crucial.

By the time that their flowers begin to die off, my other plants like the Nepeta and Salvia, as well as the 50 Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ that I’ve grown from seed, should be coming into bloom. I only had one foxglove in the garden in 2011, but my shady garden should be awash with towering spires of irresistible bell-shaped flowers for the bees to climb in to.

It’s important to leave a little water out for bees too – even just a shallow dish with a few pebbles in it so that the bees can have a drink without drowning.

Do your bit. Bee Friendly.