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Spring Blossom

Why don't we talk more about blossom as a resource for wildlife? Every one of our fruit trees has thousands and thousands of flowers for pollinating insects to enjoy. It's not like they're unattractive - the Victorians grew some apple cultivars just for their flowers; there are some we grow here whose fruit is definitely a sideshow.  

It's not just cultivated fruit trees which offer this great bounty. Flailing hedges is an incredible waste of a wonderful resource, not least because pollinated flowers mean hedgerow fruit too. As a learner beekeeper I was always told that when the Blackthorn was out I could stop worrying about my colonies starving.

Unflailed hedges should be groaning with blossom, from February to midsummer. We try and encourage all these species in our hedges here, as well as including them in the bare root hedge packs we sell. The flowering succession they offer is as attractive as it is invaluable, giving reliable and diverse nectar and pollen sources for pollinators. And not just a huge range of pollinators; I was recently fascinated to learn that dormice feasted off Honeysuckle nectar!

Prunus cerasifera starts flowering in February and the sequence ends with the heady scent of Hawthorn, the May tree, before the summer flowering species kick in.  

Prunus cerasifera and friend, February

You can create an even longer flowering window using fruit bushes and trees, from almonds (an honorary fruit tree for this exercise!) and apricots to medlars, which at the time of writing are yet to show. We have fruit trees in flower here from February into June.  

Medlar in June

Early flowering trees are increasingly helpful. Climate change means that Queen bumblebees emerge from hibernation earlier and earlier, for example, and struggle to find food; some species are flying all year round now. 

Hedgerow Blossom Sequence (Common Species)

Prunus cerasifera, Cherry plum

Prunus spinosa, Blackthorn

Malus sylvestris, Crab apple

Prunus avium, Wild cherry

Crataegus monogyna, Hawthorn

Viburnum opulus, Guelder rose

Euonymus europaeus, Spindle

Cornus sanguinea, Dogwood

Ligustrum vulgare, Wild privet

Rosa spp., Roses

Lonicera periclymenum, Honeysuckle

Rubus fruticosus, Blackberry

 

Fruit Tree Blossom Sequence

There's of course a lot of overlap here (and no mention of fruit bushes!), but this will give you a general idea! 

Almond

Apricot

Peach

Damson, Gage, Plum and Bullace

Crab apple

Cherry (inc. mazzards)

Apple and pear (inc. Perry pears)

Quince

Medlar

 

*technically non-native, but a really helpful archeophyte and a close relation to Blackthorn.