Copper Bee Apiary

A garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridge, UK - honey bees and their beekeeper Hilary van der Hoff.

New roots, new shoots

I am here in my new house and garden, while the bees are on sabbatical in the orchard. As I look around me, watching the earth waking up and wondering what the new garden has in store, I am trying to notice what winter flowers there are for the bees to visit when they are here.

These are the ones I have seen.

Garden snowdrops

Lots and lots of snowdrops. There are many in the village, including large drifts such as these in the churchyard.

The village is also well stocked with winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis).

I was pleased to find several patches of winter aconites in the garden too. I had planted some in our last garden but they did not establish well. Here they seem to be flourishing.

The garden also has purple crocuses, including plenty scattered through the lawn.

Looking higher above ground, a blossoming hedge of Viburnum tinus divides the garden lawn from the wilder end behind. Now, a confession. I don't like this plant. It's a winter pollen source, it's a winter nectar source, its flowers smell like honey, it looks great in a jug on the dining table, it's evergreen and all that...but I don't like it in the garden. I killed the previous one we had, despite its bee-friendly credentials. Hopefully I can learn to love it this time round.

What I do like, and may plant more of, is the Christmas box. There is one under the kitchen window which welcomes me home with a waft of perfume in the dark evening when I am putting away my bike.

Winter jasmine is decorating the hedge behind the area of garden that I have provisionally earmarked "apiary".

Rosemary is in flower too, as I discover on close inspection.

And the cherry tree in the middle of the lawn is also surreptitiously flowering, with tiny pink flowers.

Now for a few that I had to look up.

Do you know this one?

Some reading around suggests that it is a winter honeysuckle called Lonicera × purpusii 'Winter Beauty'. It has a drinkable, lemony scent, which revitalises frozen winter nostrils.

And what about this one - referring to the clusters of white flowers in the tangled shrubbery?

For this, my internet reading suggests Viburnum × bodnantense.

Then there are these big white flowers, closer to the ground:

Helleborus niger?

Hooray for so many January flowers!

Beekeepers talk of flowers being "pollen sources" and/or "nectar sources". It seems that some flowers are one but not the other, or are more important producers of one than the other. I think all the above plants provide pollen and/or nectar to honey bees. The snowdrops and aconites certainly are reputed to be very good winter sources of both for bees.

The final plant I'll mention is a wind pollinated one, so does not produce nectar, but apparently bees do collect pollen from it. It's this beautiful hazel tree:

Writings, images and sound recordings are by the beekeeper unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Logo artwork © 2015-2019 Susan Harnicar Jackson. All rights reserved.