The warm wind that has been blowing today is still blowing this evening - a wonderful balmy evening - and it’s only early April.  What a topsy turvy world we are living in right now.  Last night I found a honeybee clinging to a wooden peg on my washing line.  It was too cold for her to fly so I put her in the greenhouse.  This morning I fed her local honey and water which she sipped up.  And then I left her to it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not, but by the time I got back to her spot, she had gone.  She will have been a bee that has overwintered and soon she will have finished her work and been superseded by younger bees that are already hatching.  As you can see in the photo - from today's opening of our hive we have a few larvae, covered cells where bees are growing and hatching, and our Pink Queen.  It was nerve wracking opening up the hive for the first time this year, but we were delighted that the bees have survived and the queen is in lay.  We have decided that we are going to try and establish three hives this year.  We are novices, but it is great to learn a new skill and develop a new interest, especially as we get older - got to keep those brain cells churning.  We also love honey and nothing tastes quite like local honey.  Local honey can also be great at helping with hayfever.  If you think about it, it’s a form of vaccination, in the form of little doses of honey containing your local pollen which you are then able to develop some immunity to.  It’s also important to support your local honey producers. 

Bee hive with larvae, overwintering bees and honeyBee Hive in April

This year in the cutting garden I will be looking to encourage pollinating insects again.  Already we have the huge bombus terrestris (first bumblebee you will see this spring)  bouncing around the garden looking for a nesting site. The Bee-flies (probably bombylius major) are also out and I saw one yesterday buzzing in the hellebores. 

Pink Hellebores in AprilHellebores

I would never have believed that growing a few flowers would have such an impact on our local fauna, but it is amazing, and I have seen insects that I never knew existed. A family favourite to grow, and you aren't going to believe this, is the old fashioned cotoneaster horizontalis.  We have counted over a hundred bees at any one time, feasting on the flowers, and over 10 different species of bee.  It is joyful to see and we have great fun comparing notes with my father, who also has one.

Blue Grape hyacinths in AprilMuscari

In the Rhino I am now fully hardening off the autumn flowers and will be planting them out this week.  I am also in the midst of planting out the David Austin roses I bought recently.  These will be allowed to grow on this year without blooming so that they can be available for wedding flowers next year.  In my head I do a little dance of joy at the anticipation. 

Pink Hyacinths in AprilHyacinths

When I started writing this blog as an effort to encourage you to grow your own flowers I hadn't fully appreciated how much planning ahead we have to do for our gardens to produce what we want, whether it’s for flowers, fruit or veg.  But that’s part of the joy of it all, a positive act for the future.  Wherever you are, happy gardening, sow some seeds and pick some flowers.

Double headed daffodils in AprilNarcissi 'Cheerfulness'

 

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Written by Fran Phillips