Bloomin’ flowers!

Bloomin’ flowers!

 

Did you see the news story this week that British flowers are blooming almost a month earlier than they used to?

Using 420,000 observations of 406 flower species gathered as part of the Nature’s Calendar project run by The Woodland Trust, scientists at the University of Cambridge were able to bash the stats and come up with that figure.

They compared first flowering dates (FFD) from 1950 to 1986 with those from 1986 to the present day. The change in FFD for low-growing plants was more marked than that for trees and shrubs, with the first dates advancing by an average of 32 days for smaller plants.

So, I thought I’d pop out and see what is flowering in my garden now in the first week of February.

There are some you’d very much expect, such as Winter Honeysuckle, which never puts on a visual show but smells divine and bumblebees love it:

And Winter Cherry Prunus subhirtella, which I would say is usually the best winter plant in my garden for Honeybees and bumblebees, and the petals are ripped apart by Blue Tits to plunder little sips of nectar:

Then there’s Wintersweet Chimonanthus, which smells great but I don’t find to be a major pollinator draw:

And of course there are Snowdrops – I have a few records of Honeybees visiting them, but I can’t claim they’re wondrous for early-emerging pollinators.

But then there are flowers in my garden at the moment that I just wouldn’t expect, such as Thrift, the native seaside plant, still going strong(ish):

And there is a Yellow Scabious still happily in flower

And Pot Marigold Calendula officinalis just keeps on pumping out its sunshine.

But the big hit with my Buff-tailed Bumblebees today was this – Teucrium fruticans azureum, a wonderful little Mediterranean shrub for a free draining, sunny site.

The study which calculated this advance in FFDs was able to show that the advance was correlated with the temperatures in the first four months of the year, which has increased 1.1 degrees centigrade over the last 36 years compared with the 36 years before that.

Is it a problem for nature? The risk is what is called ecological mismatch, in which a wildlife species that relies on a plant to produce flowers or leaves or seeds or caterpillars at a certain time of year finds that they are out of sync. There is a chance they will be able to adapt; but there is a chance they won’t.

As gardeners, we can help a bit by ensuring that there are flowers in bloom early in the year for any pollen- or nectar-eating insect that emerges early. But we can’t do much to make leaves unfurl or caterpillars boom at the time when nature is programmed to expect it.

All we can do is make our space as wildlife friendly as possible, throughout the year, to try and mitigate the stresses that climate change will bring. And I know so many of you are already doing that, so thank you. You – and what you do in your outside spaces for nature – is what ‘hope’ looks like!

* This article was originally published here

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