Earliest Flowering Willow Trial
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.
Rabbit damaged Willow
Many of the willows that I planted two years ago have been completely ‘ring barked’ by rabbits. I had left them unprotected as they had been left alone the year before. Big mistake. Not all of the trees have been damaged, and luckily some of the ‘Lapin’ trees had been protected. These are the trees that are starting to flower now. As the trees are only just starting to break their dormancy, I hope to be able to cut them off above the damage, and plant the tops as cuttings. With protection this time. I’m also going to put some wider guards around the willow bases/stumps, and hope that they regrow. Again, protected.
Willow as Bee Forage
Willow is one of the key ingredients in a bee forage system. Not only are they an excellent source of pollen, but they also give nectar. At least some willow varieties do. If you’re not sure about your own trees, get up close and look to see if the bees are using their tongues. If they are it’s nectar. That was the point of the trial, to see which varieties flowered first, and then if the earliest flowring plants produced nectar. That’s still in question for ‘Lapin’ as there were no bees on it today. Hopefully that will change as the numbers of tree build up, and increase in size. (Not helped by my Rabbit Problem).
Other Early Flowering Varieties
The earliest commercially available willow that I have is Salix Daphnoides. A beautiful tree, with large yellow catkins, and plum couloured new growth.
Other plants for Early Nectar
My Winter Flowering Honeysuckle has had foragers on for a while, any time that the weather has allowed, and my Cornelian Cherries (Cornus mas) look as though they are ready to flower at any time. Both are good early sources of nectar, and the Cornelian Cherry gives edible fruit.