February began with snow on the ground, a biting North easterly, and temperatures barely above zero all day. At least the sun shone, and Imbolc was suitably impressive. With one foot in winter, and one in spring.
3 days of harsh cold with night time temperatures of minus 9 and deeply hard, frozen soil, covered in hail and snow, gave way quite dramatically to a shift in winds to Westerlies, and temperatures rising to nearly double figures.
By mid-morning of the 4th, all the snow had melted, and eventually the sun came out around noon. By 1.45pm, the honeybees had found the 2 areas of the garden which were receiving full sun, and also out of the cool Northerly wind.
There must have been hundreds visiting the many insect friendly flowers now growing there – Crocus, snowdrops, Hellebore, Scilla mischtschenkoana and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’. The buzzing sound was amazing for this time of the year, and a true delight!
All the Crocus, featured in close up above, are the result of my hand pollinating, collecting seed and scattering it, in the absence of any bumblebees for at least another couple of weeks. Fortunately I shan’t need to bother with the Crocus this year! Though even the honeybees don’t seem to visit any of these Cyclamen coum flowers. At least, not yet!
Valentine’s day 2019 will live long in our memory. A day of full sunshine, and although a fairly brisk wind, the direction had swung round to a Southerly direction, apparently bringing us warmer (11 degrees C) air up from the Azores. The garden shone as never before at this time of the year, and we’ve never seen so many honey bees in a garden, anywhere, anytime, as there were at Gelli from 9.00am to 3 pm. Quite extraordinary! Hundreds of thousands of insect friendly flowers, for thousands of bees.
The display was repeated the following day, and then although the sunshine was more fleeting, bees still managed to nip out fleetingly. Concerned that the bees might have packed away so much pollen and nectar this early in the year, and potentially be running out of space, Tony, our beekeeper, came and did a snap hive inspection, which gave me my first chance to have a peek inside the frames. Everything seemed fine with sufficient empty cells for more storage and egg laying, and also evidence of quite a lot of new brood.
The weather then built once more into glorious sunny high pressure, with light winds, surprisingly only slight overnight frosts, and the garden was looking its best ever at this time of the year, when we opened for our NGS snowdrop festival weekend on the 23rd/24th, when golden light flooded the garden first thing.
We were nearly overwhelmed on Sunday afternoon, as people left cars in the village and walked up, but somehow Fiona coped with over 110 teas and cakes single handedly whilst my parking attendant/security skills and patience were tested to the limit as at one point we had 13 cars snucked in around the house. But the sun shone, most folk really seemed to enjoy themselves, and we only had to turn a couple away. We shall need to re-think just how we manage to open next year in a more controlled manner.
An unexpected bonus for me as a result of my parking duties, was seeing and photographing a Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, butterfly on our access track – having to halt an advancing car, whilst I snapped away.
And as if to reinforce how special February 2019’s weather was, just before West Wales broke the all time maximum February temperature on 2 successive days – the highest being 20.8 degrees C on the 28th at Porthmadog, I was amazed to find a reptilian companion had been woken from hibernation early and somehow found a way onto my arm, as I watered some seeds.