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.
Two years ago I was sent some willow cuttings from the research centre at Rothampstead, who keep the National willow collection. The cuttings were for me to use to see which were the earliest flowering willows. My interest is early bee forage. I have a lot of violet willow (Salix daphnoides), which is my earliest flowering willow and every year I’m relieved when I see my bees foraging on it, as I know that their lean period is over. From then on, there is a steady flow of nectar until early Summer, and only the weather.
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.
Well, I’ve had my first swarm of the season, which is about a week early. As predicted, the moment that the weather started to improve, swarming commenced. I found it at about 2 pm, and by just after 4, it was making it’s way into it’s new home, but more about that later.
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?