By Melissa Mabbitt
February is often the iciest month, but it also brings the first stirrings of spring, when tiny twinkling flowers appear like jewels above the frosted earth and melting snow.
These earliest spring-flowering bulbs are incredibly dainty, but also incredibly tough. Their small stature helps them to withstand the unforgiving weather, and their colours are invitingly bright to attract pollinating insects emerging bleary-eyed from winter hibernation. They enjoy a special place in the growing year, taking advantage of a very early spring window when the earth is starting to warm, but other plants have yet to wake.
On an icy morning you might see a whole carpet of white snowdrops, golden winter aconites or rich amethyst-coloured crocus sparkling above the frosted grass. Their robust little blooms stay tightly closed on cold, dull days but relax open in the sun to reveal their valuable bounty of pollen and nectar.
With flowers so scarce in February, these plants can guarantee early bees will visit. Long before overhead trees come into leaf, they make the most of the increasing sunlight levels then fall dormant and die back as the rest of the garden bursts into life.
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