Last year I published a post about My Earliest Flowering Willow, and was surprised to see that the willow that flowered earliest for my was a hybrid called ‘Lapin’. I was up in the Forest Garden again today, ‘weeping’ at the damage done to my willows by rabbits, and noticed that again, the earliest flowering willow variety was ‘Lapin’. This was one of the three varieties that I had obtained from the National Willow Collection, at Rothamsted Research.
I wanted to get some current pictures of the Forest garden posted, with a short account of where I’ve got to so far, and what’s next. For those who haven’t visited the blog before, it might be worth you checking out the Forest Garden paragraph of the Pictures, Designs, and Plans page, before continuing.
The first picture is a view from the top (North East) corner of the Forest Garden, which is about an acre in size.
View from the top
The pink bands that you can see running across the picture are the swale banks, which are covered in Musk Mallow. This is a wonderful plant, perennial, edible leaves and flowers, great bee forage, deep rooted, and able to compete with grass. I planted most of these as self seeded plants from the vegetable garden,and they have started to self seed, and expand. The pictures below show a bit more detail.
If you have read my recent posts, you could be forgiven for thinking that all I’m doing at the moment is catching swarms. I did think that if ever I wrote an autobiography, this chapter would be entitled ‘Summers in a bee suit’, but I’m trying hard to keep up with all of the other chores that need doing. With no swarms for two days, and after a concerted effort to get ahead of the bees in terms of hive and frame assembly, I have actually managed to spend some time repotting, potting on, planting out, and thinking about the future.
It might seem a bit premature to be thinking about Summer bee forage, but when growing from seed, if it’s not planted now, then it may not flower in time. Now I know that it’s possible to grow annuals, from seed, for flowering in Summer, but I prefer to grow perennial plants. That way, the number of bee plants increase each year, rather than remain static. In line with permaculture principles, I also want to grow plants that have more than one function. I realise that you can include looks, and scent, as functions, and I do, but why stop there?
I always relax a little when my willow starts to flower, as it marks the beginning of decent quantities of nectar and pollen for my bees. I have quite a few varieties of willow, and the first to flower here is Salix daphnoides, the violet willow. Not only does it flower early, but the shoots are the colour of damsons, and with the same ‘bloom’. Last year, my willow didn’t start to produce until much later in the month, probably because we had bad weather quite late. The two links here are to articles that I wrote at the time. Busy Bees. Willow Pollen.
This year, I noticed that there were a few catkins that had started to change from white to yellow two days ago, but no sign of any bees. The picture below shows the first of the catkins as it changes.
The silver hairs are what the catkin is like before it starts to produce, and the yellow bits are the individual flowers within the catkin. Each flower produces nectar and pollen, but do not appear to be open yet.