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Humble Bumbles and Broom
The mid winter slump
I check the weather forecast in preparation for the weekend ahead. Saturday is better than Sunday but both don’t promise much. I make plans for Saturday morning. A much enjoyed (and needed) catch up with my friend. We walk around the botanical gardens and have a coffee, chatting about this and that. There is a refreshing comfort in this, knowing that no matter what the season is we can do this together. I head home lighter, making promises to myself of making the most of the clear afternoon, thinking I will garden. Once I am home I get distracted with things I should do and plans to garden waft out the window. The day passes in nothing much. Sunday comes and along with it endless rain which means we are all firmly stuck inside. We do some tidying, books are collected and donated to the local book sale, movies are watched hidden under blankets. We only brave the outside for brief dog walk. I always forget about this time of the year and how much of a struggle it is. I spend time counting my sleeps to the shortest day thinking I have made it through the worst of the winter and I always forget that while the days may be getting longer it is the grey of the weather that is hard to manage.
There is a moment over the course of the week when the weather does clear and I grab the camera and stand outside hunting out things to photograph. As I stand I hear it. The faint deep rumble. A bumble bee has emerged from her nest as she has decided it is warm enough to do a quick forage. I had plans last season to learn more about bumbles but it did not come to fruition. This year I have started reading “ The Humble-Bee; its life-history” By F M L Sladen and have learnt enough to know that the queen who zoomed past me is hunting for food. A quick nip out for a snack if you will. I hope that the weather holds and that once she has replenished her stores she has enough time and energy to get back to her home and the warmth of her nest. I thought about creating a bumble bee nest but after further research, I learn it is better to create a space in the garden that is inviting to bumbles to make home rather than build a box. So while Spring is yet to fully awaken and bumbles become a regular part of garden life, I have observed that there is one nest in the garden based on seeing this queen. My aim will be to try and figure out where she lives, so I can observe her activities over the coming months and learn more about the bumble bees that call my garden their home.
“Gardening is unique in many ways. Not only for the personal aura which it manifests, but because it is an occupation to which there is no end. Gardeners are always on their way, but never arriving.”
As well as standing to watch bumbles I stand to see what is flowering. I’ve set myself the challenge of regular flower collection to pop in a vase. I’m using this exercise as a guide to work out the gaps in my pollinator friendly planting. I hope by sharing what I find it will prove to be a resource for others to start thinking and adding more pollinator friendly plants to their garden. So on another shabby grey day I stand and wonder what I can find to collect. I have flowers that are early such as daffodils - they give me a colour to start with. During this time of year I love these bold yellow blooms contrasting against dark green foliage. It is so delightful to see after one too many grey days. I keep looking determined to find something that my bees will be enjoying. I’ve noticed the hive is active on days when it is warm enough. This activity therefore suggest there must be something flowering. Then I hear it. The swoop of the kererū as they speed across the garden. I always duck, why I am not sure. I’ve turn to see where it came from and see it, flowering broom or Genisteae. It’s another bright yellow to add to the daffodils. This is good, broom is a very good bee friendly plant especially at this time of year when the hunt for pollen is high. (Pollen is needed to create brood food for the next generation of bees which will start to appear in spring). Having collected the broom, I notice the young and tender flowerings of fennel. While yet to reach it’s full abundance the fennel is flowering in small soft patches. It is something else I can add to the my collection and again another good bee friendly plant. In summer when it’s in a full flush it is smothered in bees. I also add some banksia rose (Lutea). There are few branches flowering, and like the fennel it is the warm up before this beast of a plant is flowering in full. I stand, wrapped up against the cold weather, and sink into the joy of creating an arrangement of flowers. The floristy is not perfect but it is a moment from the garden and I feel better for it. As Dan Pearson noted writing about his gardening friend Geraldine, “Her posies were the garden distilled in a jam jar”. What a wonderful idea.