Plant of the Month: February 23

This year we are asking our followers to ensure their gardens can help bee populations thrive – encouraging both diverse plant life and a variety of bee species to visit. With 25 species of bumblebees and more than 250 species of solitary bees, there are many worthing bees that can be encouraged into your garden if you choose your plants carefully.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has helped us look beyond summer favourites such as lavender and borage. Longer autumns and milder winters mean that bees such as the buff-tailed bumblebee can be active all year round. They need garden plants to help them through.

So, without further ado, February’s plant is the Goat Willow (Salix Caprea).

This is undoubtedly February’s top bee attraction to gardens! Preferring deep soils that don’t dry out, this native deciduous tree can reach 10m tall, with broader leaves than most willows.

Come late winter, goat willow (or pussy willow) produces its furry catkins that contain not only nectar but also abundant and accessible pollen, turning the male catkins from silvery-grey to bright yellow.

This month, these trees become noisy with the buzz of insect wings. Look out for huge queen bumblebees and several early species of solitary bee including Clarke’s mining bee (A. praecox and A. apicata), Northern mining bee (A.ruficrus) and early colletes (Colletes cunicularius).

Others to try include:
• Spring flowering crocus – Crocus species and cultivators that can be naturalised in grass
• Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis agm)
• Erica x darleyensis – ashrub for neutral to acid soil, ideally grown in full sun
• Cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera) – afruiting tree for a sunny spot