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On the menu for... March 2017

Helleborus x hybridus

Scilla mischtschenkoana

Gardeners give precious border space to plants for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the plant was a gift, or is a lifelong favourite. We might be custodians of a national collection. Sometimes we make room in an already burgeoning border because it was love at first sight and the plant leapt unbidden into our shopping trolley.
In my case, I welcome certain plants into my garden because of their value to wildlife.

There are those who would say that we should only grow native plants for wildlife, but in the UK our choice of natives is woefully restricted and in any case, you only have to look at lavender in high summer to see how valuable non-natives are to butterflies and bees. In the case of lavender, the value goes beyond the blooms. In our garden, ducklings hatch under the foliage.

Tulipa turkestanica


I have seen bees or butterflies during every month in my garden in Norfolk, so I have challenged myself to increase the quantity and variety of forage on offer all year round. At the moment winter flowering shrubs are still abuzz with bees. Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, Lonicera fragrantissima and Sarcococca confusa are particularly busy. Bees plunge headlong into Crocus tommasinianus and blooms are bursting open on the much-maligned, one-time ubiquitous and hugely misspelt bee magnet, Aubrieta.

Crocus tommasinianus

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Ribes sanguineum WHITE ICICLE (‘Ubric’) decorously unfurls and Edgeworthia chrysantha, having seemingly been in bud for a century, tantalisingly reveals its true colours. Anemone blanda and Tulipa turkestanica share a common disregard for gentle unfurling and pop open at the merest hint of sun, while Scilla mischtschenkoana shines in shadier borders. Amidst all these blooms strutting their stuff, we might overlook shy Helleborus x hybridus if it wasn’t for the bees drawing attention to its flowers.

Of course, March is the time when we see butterflies too. Small tortoiseshell are already basking in the sun. There are plenty of nectar-rich plants to sustain them when they grow tired of sunbathing. There are also nettles for their larvae.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

Let us hope that 2017 will be a great year for our pollinators.
I am always interested to hear about plants attracting wildlife in other gardeners’ gardens, so please let me know if you grow a plant that grabs the attention of wildlife. Do I include rabbits, deer or slugs in this request? Why not? After all, we want to know which plants we need to protect from wildlife as well as those we wish to share with our wild friends.

Posted by Sarah Shoesmith

Sarah Shoesmith is a garden writer who blogs at .
She may be contacted via or @gardeningshoe1 on Twitter

5 Comments To "On the menu for... March 2017"

Catherine Doran On 30.03.2017
Crocus and Aubrieta are also popular with bees in my garden and another popular plant especially with bumblebees is Clematis cirrihosa Freckles. Reply to this comment
Sarah Shoesmith On 04.04.2017
That's interesting, Catherine. I don't have Clematis cirrhosa Freckles in my garden - I will add it to my wish list!
Julie Quinn On 20.03.2017
This is a lovely article. At this time of year i think pulmonaria is providing food for wildlife. Reply to this comment
Sarah Shoesmith On 04.04.2017
Thank you, Julie. Pulmonaria has just started to work its magic in the garden here, and I agree, it is certainly attracting bees.
Cathy Rollinson On 19.03.2017
Thanks for drawing attention to the range of plants which attract wildlife into our gardens. Lovely pictures. Reply to this comment
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