Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bottoms up Bees!

There are people on this planet who are always prepared for every eventuality. They have wrapped bottles and chocolates under their Christmas tree waiting for unexpected guests and a drawer filled with every conceivable type of card ready to commemorate any event requiring stationery. Sadly I am not one of these people. The sight of a bottle under the tree has me reaching for the corkscrew and I seem incapable of leaving a shop with chocolates still in their wrappers, since shopping is one of the most snack-inducing chores on my long festive to-do list. As for cards, if I write one, I rarely have a stamp, so my good wishes sit forlornly on the postage pile for months on end.

Happily, pollinating insects do not require celebratory stationery and their chosen source of refreshment is not top of my snack chart (although I am unable to resist nibbling Hemerocallis flowers which is a bit embarrassing on garden visits). Since there are plenty of plants which aren't Hemerocallis, I am in with a very solid chance of being prepared for pollinating visitors; and bulbs are a massive help when it comes to having refreshments ready for any early arrivals.

Iris reticulata
Top of the earlies at Le Grys Farm has to be Crocus tommasinianus. Last year I planted a little crocus lawn and on a sunny day in February, I sat on a bench and watched bees tipsily plunging head first into the blooms. Bottoms up my dear friends. 

This year I will be planting more Crocus tommasinianus and they will all be sited close to benches to entice me to sit down and enjoy offering the bees this little hospitality. 

Another flower which saw bee action earlier this year was Tulipa clusiana 'Peppermint Stick'. The outside of its petals are rose-red, edged in white and they open to reveal glorious pure white inner petals. The flowers last very well and it is a joy to have them in the garden, so I will certainly be adding more to the borders this autumn.

Iris reticulata is a late winter bulb which I wouldn’t wish to be without. Two streams of them flank the path to the old farmhouse and although the foliage seems to elongate forever after flowering, they are planted among Geranium which quickly grow up and disguise the dying leaves. In summer, Iris hollandica punch through the Geranium plants. If you have never sat and sipped coffee while watching bees disappearing into these beautiful flowers, you need to get a batch of bulbs and grab a mug. It is one of life’s simpler pleasures and one which is truly worth experiencing. 

Of course, there are plenty of wonderful pollinator-friendly plants available in summer and one I love to see in the garden is Allium. Now is the time to plant the bulbs, not least because buying the plants in spring or early summer will cost a great deal more than a bag of bulbs.

I am always interested to hear about which plants are popular with bees on other gardeners' plots. It can present a garden-based shopping opportunity which is up there with bulb planting as one of my favourite gardening tasks. It certainly makes a very welcome break from the boredom of digging out the clay pan from hell. This seemingly typical clay pan has now mysteriously metamorphosed into the 6" deep concrete slab of a former farm building. Consequently, I am adapting to this alarming discovery by metamorphosing into Popeye. It's not quite the look I was hoping for.