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Gardening Lymington - April in your garden, Debby Lockey's gardening blog

How to get your garden buzzing!

Tips for April in your garden, by our gardening blogger, local garden designer Debby Lockey.

As I walk down the garden I can’t help be amazed at nature.  In just the last few weeks the primroses, daffodils, camellias and a host of other plants have been flowering and they look fantastic.  I just love it. And the other thing I’ve noticed is the number of bees buzzing around.

How to help the bees in your Lymington garden this spring

We all want to do our bit for the bees, especially now that we are aware of the plight of bees.  And what better way than by choosing the correct plants for our garden which will help bees.  During the summer months there are a host of plants available for them.  But during the winter and early spring months how do the bees and other insects survive? 

Many insects don’t survive the winter.  Instead they die, leaving only their eggs, larvae or pupae to keep future generations alive. Others migrate to warmer climates.  Of those that do remain, some go into a form of hibernation known as diapause.  In this state, these insects survive the cold weather by either building up the level of glycerol in their body fluids, which acts as a kind of antifreeze, or they actually freeze their own body fluids. Others remain semi-active.  Honeybees, some ants and mayfly fall into this latter category.

These semi-active insects do bunker down for the winter.  They move further into their nests and stop up the exit with organic matter such as leaves and soil.  Then they all huddle together for extra warmth.  Studies at Delaware University have shown that during the winter months honeybees in the middle of the huddle produce heat by moving their wings, while those on the outside stay still and effectively create an insulating layer to keep the warmth within the group.  The bees then take it in turn to be in the middle or on the outside with only the queen bee staying right in the centre of the huddle.

To maintain this level of activity, bees and other active insects need to go out and forage for nectar, as their food can only be stored for a couple of days.  As their level of activity is much slower during these winter months, and in order to conserve energy, the insects tend not to travel far from their homes. Food giving plants must therefore be readily available in our gardens for these insects. And now is a good time to go to the nurseries and see them in full flower. For bees and other insects it is best to choose plants that produce single flowers rather than double as this design makes it easier for insects to reach the nectar and pollen.  Seeing them in flower will also help you decide if they fit into your present planting scheme.

Plants to grow in your garden to help the bees thriveDSC_0342_1291_180.jpg - 58.79 KB

You can choose from

Aubrieta

Crocus

Erica Carnea

Primroses and Polyanthus

Pulmonaria (Lungwort)

Violets

Wall flowers

Fruit trees

And if the nurseries are still selling them, buy snowdrops in the green.  These are little bundles of snowdrops that have been lifted and divided after they have flowered.  They are usually wrapped in newspaper to keep them moist, and held together with an elastic band.  This is the best way to plant snowdrops as they haven’t dried out, you can see exactly where you want to plant them and the squirrels and mice don’t seem to eat them as much. And snowdrops, being one of the earliest flowers out in the garden are especially important for bees.

DSC_0359_1308_180.jpg - 46.87 KBIn my garden I have put together a very simple planting design of Camellia Debbie (of course) which is underplanted with pulmonaria, and vinca minor.  Very simple but very effective.  The new blue flowers of the pulmonaria pick up the blue flowers of the vinca minor (which can’t be seen in the photo). As these pulmonaria flowers fade to pink they mirror the pink flower heads of the camellia.  For the rest of the season the pulmonaria’s frosted silver leaves lift and brighten that partially shaded area.

The photo is taken of a woodland garden I designed for one of my clients.  Here we used pulmonaria officinalis ‘Sissinghurst White’, and vinca minor ‘Alba’ as the area was quite dark under the oak trees.

Get out in your garden!

So, if possible, now is a wonderful time to get out into your garden.  Here in the New Forest the soil is beginning to dry out and warm up.  Add some compost or well rotted manure to your soil.  This will add nutrients and help to open up the soil structure if you have clay soil and so improve drainage.  Or if you have sandy soil it will help to hold moisture and add nutrients.  Then start planting those plants that will help those bees get buzzing.

By Debby, April 2014

Next:  May in your Garden

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