Easter bees and Easter flowers – a gardening guide

Stefan Roberts
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When I was a child I remember our class at primary school going over to the local church, where the vicar taught us the story of Easter. It was a fine spring morning and we wondered through the churchyard where a multitude of daffodils bounced in the wind between the lichen sprayed gravestones. Bumblebees attended these flowers and the blossom of the cherries above with their black and white stripes.

However, it was the red-tailed bumblebee that attracted our young eyes. Red-tailed bumblebees are in fact quite common; our vicar called them ‘Easter Bees’ as their appearance coincided with the holiday and it is as ‘Easter Bees’ that I first remember them by. I watch them now flitting from flower to flower.

Pulmonaria are a cottage garden favourite, there are many different cultivars to choose from.

Pulmonarias are a favourite with gardeners as well as bees. There are a range of different coloured flowers from white, pink, purple and blues, held in clusters above the foliage, which is splashed with silver spots. They associate well with other low-growing spring plants such as Hellebores and Epimediums. Tidy up their foliage in autumn for attractive, fresh growth to last over the winter.

Dead-nettles are another bee magnet and make excellent ground cover in a shaded spot. Lamium maculatum has small leaves and is more compact, forming an evergreen carpet of silvery leaves with magenta flowers arising above. Lamium galeobdolon ‘Florentium’ is larger with yellow, tubular flowers.

Lamium is an excellent source of nectar for pollinators.

Another good spring ground-cover are the periwinkles. Vinca minor is more well behaved than its cousin Vinca major, but both have handsome glossy green leaves – again evergreen – creating a foil for the five-petaled flowers.

Garlands of Periwinkle (vinca) will soon clothe the ground.

Flowering cherries are the stars of the season and there many fine, highly bred cultivars for the garden. Many form large spreading trees and their roots can be quite shallow, pushing up through lawn and driveways, so careful consideration before positioning is advised. Some good cultivars for the smaller garden are Prunus ‘Shogetsu’; Prunus ‘Pink Perfection’ and Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ which is fairly columnar. Prunus ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is smaller enough to be grown in a container where its intricate branches and delicate flowers can be appreciated up close. Plums, Damsons and Greengages are also members of the Cherry (Prunus) family and make great additions where you want fruit as well as flower.

Amelanchier flowers like starlight.

Amelanchier also makes an excellent small flowering tree, especially if multi-stemmed, giving an illusion of woodland. They bare white star-like blossoms against emerging red/bronze leaves and will fruit early in summer, a good feeding spot for newly fledged birds.

One last flower to mention are Wood Anemones – particularly the native Anemone nemorosa, which has soft white blooms with a little blush of pink on the underside. They are held up individually above deeply cut green leaves and dance around in the wind. They can be slow to establish but a drift of them beneath the canopy of a tree is truly enchanting.

So plant them for yourself as much as for the bees this Easter.

Delicate dancing Anemones
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About Stefan Roberts

Experienced Horticulturalist and Garden Designer.