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Hazel Catkins in the late winter sun.

Hazel catkins in late winter

Another excellent source of bee fodder at this time of year is hazel catkins.

This mist of golden catkins heavy with pollen will help to ensure that the local bee colonies get off to a good start as a generous supply of pollen will ensure that the queen bees will start laying eggs early. That will produce a good sized colony of bees later in the year.


Crocus - early fodder for bees!

Crocus 'Pickwick' flowers visited by bees

A couple of days ago during a mild sunny interlude, I spent an hour or so wandering round a garden planted with a good variety of early spring bulbs.

One thing I noticed as I enjoyed the display of Crocus brought out by the sunshine was the number of bees making use of these early spring flowers.  Given the modest number of plants in bloom at this point of the year - anything providing pollen and nectar is clearly in demand.  Given the mounting pressures on our struggling bee population gardeners have a duty to do what they can to help - so planting early spring flowers is a really useful act - as well as providing a bonus for us humans.


More snowdrops!

Galanthus nivalis in flower in February

Further to my last piece - these ordinary Galanthus nivalis look simply wonderful in the late winter sun!


A fine display of snowdrops.

Galanthus plicatus in flower

The snowdrops are very much the stars of the garden at the moment.

I saw this rather fine clump of what I suspect to be what I know as Galanthus caucasicus - which I understand is now more properly known as G. elwesii monostictus - in a friends garden.  While the straight Galanthus nivalis en masse is a wonderful sight - some of the larger leaved galanthus are very fine, especially those with glaucous foliage.


Rhubarb already on the move.

Young leaves of Rhubarb emerging

While winter is still in the air and the prospect of harvesting the first crop from the garden seems some months away, Rhubarb is already on the move!

The mild and wet weather of early winter has really got it moving so hopefully it won't be too long until the joys of rhubarb crumble!


Davallias mariesii - the Squirrel's foot fern.

Davallia in the winter

A fern that generally attracts a fair degree of interest is Davallia mariesii - the Squirrel's foot fern - which has wonderful pale scale-covered rhizomes which spread out like strange furry legs.

A member of the Polypody clan from Japan / East Asia it is probably just hardy over the average London winter so long as it doesn't get too wet. An ephiphyte by habit, it is great trailing down over pots, allowing its feet to be shown off to full effect.  They also make great house plants.  In winter they want to be kept reasonably dry and allowed to got semi dormant - they may drop some fronds over winter but they will happily get going in the spring with a flush of new growth.

Humata tyermanii - the Hare's foot fern - a close relative is perhaps more often sold but is genuinely less hardy and should not be left outside even for a mild London winter.


Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' cuttings growing fast.

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' cuttings

One of this winter's cuttings that has grown particularly well is Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'.

This is a really useful foliage contrast plant with its reddish bronze leaf colour and light markings on the leaves.  Unlike some knotweeds it is perfectly well behaved and is certainly something I look forward to using in planting schemes this year.


Echeveria lilacina - another plant looking good in the winter sunshine.

Echeveria lilacina

Something else that has been looking rather good on the glass house benches in the occasional winter sunshine is Echeveria lilacina - the Ghost Echeveria or Mexican Hens and Chicks.

While not winter hardy and rather prone to vine weevil attack, the Echeverias are good low maintenance house plants and do well in terracotta pots and pans outside during the summer months.  The flower spikes are also very attractive.


Winter flowering plectranthus just keeps going

Plectranthus in flower in February

When the weather is particularly dreary - we seem to have had endless wind and rain - there are two things that immediately brighten the spirits - some winter sunshine and the early / late flowering plants.

This plectranthus - am not quite sure which one it is since it was grown from a packet of mixed plectranthus seed - has been flowering since mid December.


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