Tuesday 17 March 2015

simple spring flowers to help insects

The flush of snowdrop flowers (gallanthus nivalis) has finished in the Woodland Garden. But they have been succeeded by a wide range of exceptionally beautiful simple, insect friendly flowers.
native bullace (Prunus domestica subspecies insititia)
The bullace (a small wild plum) was here when we arrived. It is benefitting from the increased light now that some of the overcrowding from the sycamores and horse chestnuts has been reduced. The bullace has elegant white flowers and prominent yellow stamens.

cyclamen coum
native primrose (primula vulgaris)
Cyclamen seem to be springing up all over! They are distributed by ants and then form really large underground corms which store water and food -ideal for our dry sandy soil. The spring flowering coum are less vigorous than autumn flowering herderifolium. Each form has the tiny, characteristic cyclamen flowers and attractively marked waxy leaves.

My favourite flower is our wild primrose. Although there are many attractive cultivars, none has the star quality of the wild form. They create hummocks of lemon coloured flowers that stud the woodland floor. They can be propagated by seed - or by division in June. Each plant can yield five or more new little plants which will flower the following spring. It is my intention to see the whole of the woodland garden populated by these beauties before I'm done!
lungwort (pulmonaria 'Sissinghurst White')
Lungwort have spotty leaves and typically have pink and blue flowers in each cluster. We also have the gorgeous Sissinghurst White form. Its progeny revert to the original colour and so they must be propagated by division if more of the white form are wanted. As with all of the flowers, their form is very simple, making it easy for insects to enter and feed.

Early bumblebee (bombus pratorum) visits lungwort flower
Also flowering at the moment are our lamiums (flowering dead nettles) and hellebores. A few tiny Tete a tete daffodils have moved into the Woodland Garden as have a little group of crocus. There really is a developing banquet of insect food out there! And more to come!

And here's the vindication! We have the first Early Bumblebee queen (bombus pratorum) feasting in a lungwort flower. She is the reason we're going to all this trouble. As with almost all insects, bumblebee numbers have fallen over recent years. The reasons for this decline in bumblebees is not entirely clear but disease and changing land use are likely causes. They need a range of simple flowers to stock up with pollen and nectar to help them establish their nests and then a succession of flowers for as long a period as possible to see them through a successful breeding season and into hibernation (diapause).

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