Tulips, time travel, and top pollinators

Posted in All posts, May, Tulips, on

I often think that gardening is like travelling through time. Standing outside the other day I was spirited back to a cold November afternoon, my fingers almost numb as I packed tulip bulbs into two zinc troughs; the daylight fading around me and evening drawing near. Freezing and desperate to head indoors, I consoled myself by imagining a future me outside in the Spring sunshine, enjoying the bulbs in full bloom. And now it is May, the tulips are bobbing beautifully in the breeze, and my assertion that the time spent planting them would all be worthwhile is as true as I imagined.

The tulips are Sarah Raven’s Vintage Silk tulip collection, combining “Apricot Beauty”, “Groenland”, “Mistress Grey” and “Spring Green”. Watching their leaves unfurl and the buds shoot up and bloom has been one of the joys of this first part of the year. And as the flowers have emerged, so have the bees, after a long winter bereft of their friendly buzzing.

This year, there seem to be more solitary bees in the garden than ever before, from the tiniest and most difficult to identify to the easily-recognisable, fast-flying, and wonderfully-named hairy-footed flower bees. The flower bees are enjoying the white comfrey I wrote about last year, probing their long tongues into the white trumpet-like flowers in search of nectar. So, if you want to attract hairy-footed flower bees in to your garden next Spring, try planting comfrey, or pulmonaria, another of their favourite foods.

This ashy mining bee demonstrates just how important solitary bees are for pollination – look at all that bright yellow pollen clinging to her furry body.  

And if you are inspired to plant some tulips in pots for next Spring, why not get some expert advice and ideas from Sarah here.

Thanks for reading,

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.