Little has changed in the garden in the past weeks, but this says a lot for the hardiness and resilience of the plants as they have weathered a period of constant sub-zero overnight temperatures that dropped to minus eight degrees centigrade.
Frost on primroses makes them look sugar-coated and they are tough as old boots but…
The first flowers that I have ever had on my Loquat ((Eriobotrya japonica) were also frozen.
What has surprised me is that now after the freeze, it is continuing to flower. The fresh buds have opened releasing their perfume and are still being visited by the bees. The terminal leaves that surround the flowers have been badly damaged by the cold but the buds are obviously made of sterner stuff.
The broad beans too have survived. I confess to having covered them with a fleece and I do not think they would have survived without the extra help. Just before we left at Christmas I hastily planted some peas which you can see to the right of the broad beans. I reckoned the germination would be much poorer so I planted the peas close together (also I did not want to be left with half a packet). It looks like every single pea has germinated so I will wait to see what the future brings but perhaps they should be thinned.
The only obvious casualty is the Polygala. I planted it last spring because it was supposed to be attractive to bees and butterflies but I was very disappointed as far as pollinating insects were concerned although the flowers are very pretty. Perhaps it just gave up the struggle because I did not love it enough.
I was not idle during the freeze, I made labels for some of our plants. Some are for plants that are small and could get lost, others are for those plants whose name always escapes you, and I have tried to date when they were planted so that I have a better idea of how long they take to grow.
I took the opportunity during the bitter cold days when Violette was safely tucked up inside her hive to repaint her “au vent” or sun shade, which was peeling, and add a new Violette design on her front where the sun would damage it less.
This week the amazingly mild temperatures have allowed all the bees out to gather nectar and pollen.
The winter flowering honeysuckle is close bye and provides nectar for them.
It also provides pollen, and they stroke the stamens lovingly to gather the much needed pollen. The winter flowering honeysuckle gets my top mark for supporting pollinators during winter as the queen bumble bees visit it too.
We planted the Mahonia mainly for the bumble bees but I notice that the honey bees help themselves too.
The Viburnum tinus is covered in buds that are slowly opening but not attracting any pollinators at the moment.
The prostrate Rosemary has opened its first flowers with the promise of more to come soon.
The Hellebores too are waiting in the wings.
My snowdrops are few and struggle hard to survive here but I am grateful a few determined individuals keep up the fight.
Otherwise, the season advances with clematis pushing out tentative buds.
While higher up the seed heads from last year still decorate the stems.
After the cold spell I noticed that all our cotoneaster bushes were stripped of their red berries. We have several different varieties of cotoneaster in the garden but they all provide masses of flowers for the bees followed by great autumn decoration for us, then on to become a winter larder for the birds. All this from drought resistant, frost tolerant plants that are cheap to buy and can even be grown from seed.
I had to go back to the autumn of 2014 to get a photo of the cotoneasters before stripping but that’s what they look like – only bigger now.
Overall, the prolonged cold spell has had much less of an effect on the garden than I would have imagined. I think the cold weather in January should delay any precocious blossoming or budding. It has not helped me keep the Cerinthe in their place and a lot of them are making a break for it onto the lawn. I am just debating whether to leave them there or dig them up and re-house them elsewhere. I need to keep a good stock of them in the garden to enjoy watching the Anthophora bees in the spring.