The race for spring

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It’s not often that we see daffodils and snowdrops in flower at the same time. Yet, in this warmest of winters, here they are – the daffs outstripping the snowdrops in the race to flower first. All through a mild December, they have pushed their way through the sodden soil. Now the shoots are tall, and many boast yellowing flower buds. The snowdrops yearn for a cold snap and this morning, for this first time, we had just that.

At the back of the garden the cherry plum hedge is starred with tiny white flowers, a show usually reserved for March.

cherry plum hedge

The winter aconites, accustomed to enjoying a star turn as the earliest and brightest flowers in the garden, look quite put out by all the competition, while their companions the hellebores hang their heads demurely, not wishing to get involved.

Aconites, Hellebore and Daffs

Elsewhere in the garden, the Clematis cirrhosa continues to bloom alongside a few random rosebuds. The bergenias are in full flower and the Kerria japonica is already adorned with orange pom-poms.


So all is topsy-turvy, but the higher profusion of plants in flower than is usual at this time of year is potentially good news for any winter-active bumblebees.

Winter is of course a time of hibernation for bumblebees. The queens of most species will have buried themselves away in late summer last year, and should still be safely tucked away underground, in compost heaps, or piles of leaves. Buff-tailed bumblebee queens, however, may emerge in winter and begin establishing nests from as early as December, sustained by the winter-flowering plants, such as mahonias and viburnums, which our parks and gardens provide.

Kerria kaponica

If you do spot a bumblebee at this time of year, you can record your sighting by visiting the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Societies’ website. Doing so will help us to understand more about winter-active bees.

Thanks for reading,

Helen D

Helen D writes about simple pleasures and seasonal observations at The House at Nab End. She is a volunteer BeeWalker for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and her gardening is inspired by her love of the natural world.