Winter flowering, early and late flowers for bees

Most plants, shrubs and trees blossom as they mature. They thus provide food for bees (and other insects). Through a centuries long synchronized interplay between birds and bees  they both can produce offspring and survive.

The names as linden-, heath and other honey are not there because bees are instructed to forage selectively, but because at the honey harvest the flowering period and proximity of plants indicates that the bees food for the bigger part is gathered there.

Most plants bloom between April and October. Others specialize by providing pollen and nectar just at the time when bees food is scarce. You can help nature a lot, by planting early-and late bloomers. They are also beautiful in the garden, and are often for us useful plants and herbs.

Early bloomers for bees

bij-2Bbloem1A sign of climate change certainly is that spring in recent years begins increasingly earlier. Trees and plants therefore bloom earlier too. Even caterpillars and other insects appear earlier. But the balance is disturbed. Some birds miss the hottest caterpilars for their young, leaving less survive. Plants, insects and birds do not look at a calendar to determine their cycle of flowering or brooding. The mechanisms for this vary by species, and aren’t really clear to us yet.

To determine their flowering time some plants are especially sensitive to temperature, some more about light and day length. And often it is a complicated interplay involving also the number of cold days or days without frost.

Blooming champions, from January to December, are ex. Senecio vulgaris – Ragwort or Groundsel; Stellaria media - chickweed; Capsella bursa-pastoris - shepherd's-purs; Bellis perennis - Daisy (all year long as long as it does not freeze).

Eranthis glabellum / hyemalis / cilicica - winter aconite is a typical winter flowering plant - from January to March. Erophila verna - Early Witlow Grass goes on to June.

In February and March go besides crocuses common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) and the (Leucojum vernum) Spring Snowflake at work. also Arabis procurrens - Running rock-cress; Ficaria verna - Lesser Celandine; Petasites albus- White butterbur and Tussilago farfara- Coltsfoot start.

As of March, there are already several bloomers including anemones (Anemone coronaria - Ordinary anemone, ..); Glechoma hederacea - Ground ivy; Primula elatior - Oxlip; Pulmonaria - Lungwort; Taraxacum officinale - Common Dandelion; Vinca - periwinkle, violets (Viola varietiesy, flowering from January / July) ...


Hazel flowers very early (Jan-March), and especially the Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) is known for this. Also Fragrantissima - Bush Honeysuckle; and mahogany; (Berberis and Mahonia japonica japonica) are top of the bill.
The earliest flowering shrub is hazel. For trees it’s alder, both with catkins. The are called naked bloomers, they bloom before the leaves appear (on bare branches). Forsythia or Forsythia is another naked bloomer.

From February, fruits are prepared by the Amelanchier utahensis - Serviceberry; Cornus mas - Yellow Dogwood; Prunus armeniaca - Apricot; Prunus spinosa - Blackthorn.
And as of March this will be extended with prunus species including Prunus dulcis; Almond; and Cydonia - Quince; Ribes sanguineum - Flowering currant; Rubus spectabilis - Salmonberry and several willows (Salix).

Late Bloomers
are amongst others different types of chamomile, red clover, chickweed, rapeseed, white and purple dead nettle, yarrow, hogweed, carrots.
Fragrant bush honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) and especially ivy (Hedera helix) provide for a long time many flowers.

In winter flowering perennials we have different speciesof  Christmas rose or Hellebore (Helleborus, January / April), Winter Violin (Viola), winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).
Erica carnea - winter heath keeps full flowering from December to April. Hazel (Corylus) and Guelder rose (Viburnum) do well in the cold. The most striking winter bloomer is Chimonanthus praecox (Wintersweet) which is beautiful sweet-smelling during the winter, with yellow flowers with a purple heart to its bare branches.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, espalier, ground cover) is according to the Latin name, a naked bloomer with from December to March yellow trumpet shaped flowers on bare wood.
The flowering of the Yellow Dogwood (Cornus mas) begins in a soft period of winter and will continue during snow and frost.

Daphne (Daphne mezereum), the aptly in Dutch named Snowball (Viburnum tinus) and winter snowball (Viburnum × bodnantense 'Dawn') decorate the garden. Winter Flowering Clematis (Clematis) and bush honeysuckle (Lonicera × purpusii 'Winter Beauty') and winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragantissima) can scent all winter.

Top-plants for bees

Just about everything that blooms delivers food for bees and material for honey. Long as it is not sprayed. Because that crap you do not want in your honey and your body, and you don’t want the bees to be killed. (You can support this, various actions!)

Digitalis purpurea - Foxglove, Ilex aquifolium - Holly, Alcea rosea - Hollyhock, Echinacea purpurea - Purple coneflower, Clarkia spp (evening primrose), Angelica archangelica, Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) ..

A few of the many interesting and delicious options to meet in the garden and around the house.
Lavandula angustifolia - Lavender for fragrance.
Hedera helix - climbing Ivy: can grow in height and thus take up little space. The plant also contains saponines, useful as soap.
Humulus lupulus (hops) delivers bitter bels to brew beer.
Sedum telephium - Orpine be used as plaster.
Lots of spices are excellent bee plants: Origanum vulgare, Marjoram, Thymus serpyllum, Wild Thyme,  Borago officinalis (borage), Allium schoenoprasum - Chives, Salvia (varieties) - Sage, Satureja hortensis (savory) and Satureja montana (winter savory).
Bellis perennis (Daisy) is edible, and we like the seeds of Helianthus annuus (sunflower).
Edible berries were also first (bunches of) flowers: Vitis vinifera - Grape, Ribes rubrum (red currant, juniper berry, currant) all species, Rubus fruticosus (ordinary blackberry)...

And for those with more space chestnut and lime are a blessing for people and bees.

This is just a small selection of possibilities. On specific sites you will find 100s. On the link below you will find them in (scientific names) alphabetical order. Nectar and pollen value of the plant is denoted by: 0 = no value, 5 = great value.

Difference nectar - pollen
Pollen are the male (micro) traces of seed plants. The sperm nuclei produced in stamens of flowers, catkins or the male cones of gymnosperms.
Nectar is a sugar-rich (30 to 70%) liquid (floeem juice) produced by plants and is secreted by nectaries (nectar valves). Compositions and taste vary by plant species.
Also aphids are crazy about it. They eat it and excrete honeydew.