A February of contradictions

Frozen molehill.JPG

It has not really been a cold month, with hardly any frost but in the middle of the month there was a hard one that froze the molehills, making cunning trip traps for me as I made my way down the garden.  It has been a good winter for the moles.

Frozen daddodils

The frost tried to beat the spring flowers into submission but the daffodils take it in their stride.


Not so the broad beans that should not be flowering yet.  They are less hardy and have lost their first flowers to the cold.  Will we have a broad bean harvest this year?  It depends on the weather that will follow on.

Frozen HydrangeaSome plants look even better frosted.

Budding HydrangeaBut maybe it is time to clip the old flower heads to let the sun reach the new shoots.

Choisia Sundance

The Choisia Sundance is a star of the winter garden whether frosted or not it adds a splash of colour even in the dull winter days.

Frozen garden

The frosted back garden is quiet.  Although I prefer the cold to the higher than average rainfall we have been having this month.  February has been unusually wet and grey.

Bee on plum flowers.JPGBut it has not prevented the big plum tree from flowering and on the sunny days I can hear a comforting buzz from the bees collecting the pollen and nectar.  The butterflies also visit but not in great numbers.  Last year we had very few plums as the weather was very similar and the newly pollinated flowers were destroyed by a subsequent frost.  I notice that the tree has been opening its flowers slowly so perhaps like this there will be more chance that some fruit will hold if the cold returns.

Hazel flowers

The hazel trees started to push open their discrete flowers in February.  The catkins were already open and presenting their pollen to the wind and any passing bees that might be interested.  I have read that the hazel pollen is a precious source of protein for the bees at this time of year but try as I might I’ve never seen any bees on them let alone steal a photograph.  Those sneaky bees!

Bee in Hellebore

It’s not hard to find bees on the Hellebores, in fact, you’ll hear them first.  The pollen is a dull grey/beige but it must taste good as it is very popular.

Hyacinthe bee

The Hyacinths too are popular with both the honey bees and the queen bumble bees.  But even the bees get lulled into a false sense of spring with a few sunny days.  I found a frozen bumble bee queen one frosty morning futilely  sheltering inside a hyacinth flower.  Why had she not taken better shelter for the night?

Colletes 17.2.2016

The solitary bees have started to appear but I wonder if they regret their early arrival during the rainy days.


The Reinettes (Hyla meridionalis) seem content with the situation.  They croak happily on the patio when it is raining and sit serenely soaking up the rays when it is sunny.  It is so good to feel the winter sun after the gloom.


37 thoughts on “A February of contradictions

  1. Spring is almost here in my area and I look forward to seeing flowers and bees. We’ve had a couple of unusually warm days recently and I was treated to a chorus of frog calls in the marsh. Your beautiful images remind me of what is to come.


  2. I really enjoyed your post Amelia, the last photo took me a few moments to realise what I was looking at – I thought an eye through a leaf at first, its briefly chilly here but hopefully Spring and some warmth will return soon.


  3. Hello Amelia,
    Lovely sunny pics. I also seem to remember reading that hazel pollen is great for bees…..and yet , like you I’ve never seen any bees on them… which makes me wonder whether it’s a low preference food source if there are other flowers around – which there usually are, in our gardens – maybe not so out in the wider countryside at this time of the year, in many intensively manages farmlandscapes?
    Best wishes


    1. Interesting about your experience with the hazel pollen. I do check out the hazel in hedges that have been planted on farmland near here too. I do agree though that bees are choosy and there could be big differences regionally. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Those unpredictable frosts can be problematic for insects whose metabolism slows down so much they can no longer move. I think most plants have better coping mechanisms to deal with the occasional low temperature. Lovely photos, Amelia.


    1. I have just come back from two weeks holidays and you are perfectly correct. There are lots more flowers and the broad bean plants are all looking quite happy. I just have to time my sister’s visit correctly so she can help me prepare them. Amelia

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  5. Thank you for sharing your photos. It gives me hope for spring. Over the weekend it was so warm here the snow was all gone from the garden and the birds were singing their spring songs. I was fooled into thinking we could be in the clear. Two days later we were back to bitter cold with snow and sleet. Ah, March.


  6. Despite your pretty frost it must have been very mild for your bees to be up and about. Very few have been out to explore my crocus, snowdrops and hellebores. But the pussy willow has been ignored so far – just too cold for them?


    1. I have read honey bees need temperatures of 12 or 13 degrees to fly and bumble bees about ten. However, it must be more complicated than that as our honey bees have been out when our thermometer in the shade was registering much lower. The morning sun shines on their hives and on our willow tree and plum tree. Warm sunshine must play a part. The sun here is much hotter than in Scotland. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, our garden is on a south-facing slope and the rockery does warm up quickly once the sun gets to it. About half is still in shade until the sun gets higher though, so it was still a surprise to see so many bees.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I was just commenting to Cathy (above) that our bees are flying in very low air temperatures here but the sun is very warm when it comes out. Of course, the sun affects the plants too and they need to be warmed to produce the nectar but not so much the pollen that the bees are looking for at the moment to feed the larvae. Amelia


  7. Amelia… you can do a Spring planting of Broad Beans… end of March is a good time to put some in… and, some years, they catch up with the overwintered ones.
    Pauline no longer plants overwinterers… and a good job this year, they’d have rotted in the ground.
    We had bees out in today’s sunshine… all over the pussy willow!!
    And one of the big, black Carpenter bees was out and about… with the thorax covered in white pollen… don’t know where he was getting that… yes, he… male X. violacea… he had orange tips to the antennae.

    Love the tree frog picture… looks almost smug!


    1. We are just back from two weeks holidays to be welcomed by male Osmia buzzing our bee houses before I even got out the car. So it looks like spring has arrived. I was warned never to plant broad beans here in the spring by an old neighbour. Never the less, I tried one year to snatch two crops, but he was correct, my spring planting was covered in aphids. You have to listen to the locals! Amelia


  8. Those are great bee photos, Amelia. My plum trees are blooming and a couple of peach trees too. This is the first year in 4 years that I have only one hive left. I can’t see many bees on the fruit tree blossoms. I have put the mason bees out to hatch…three weeks early. Every day I look for ‘poop’ stains on the ‘launching box’ to indicate they are emerging, but after one week, no stains. Come on, wake up, wake up, before it’s too late!!!


      1. I’m still in a waiting pattern too, but I’m in BIG TROUBLE on the Italian Plum tree. I trimmed it back…possibly a little too far, because we saw only a precious few blossoms. “Uh, honey…there’s always next year. I bet it’ll REALLY be good next year.” 🙂


          1. This particular tree had gone too long without being pruned very well. It was very ‘whippy.’ To be honest, we didn’t get that many plums last year, so I guess it was time. (I’ll let you know next year 😀)

            Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: A pond for the garden | a french garden

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