Although April’s weather varied wildly — from an ice storm to summer temperatures — most days were cloudy, dreary, and rainy. As a result, the garden’s been slow to get going.
Icy start to April (April 5, 2023)
The month started with freezing rain and lost power.
Bloodroot: this year’s first flowers (April 13, 2023)
Last year, the Pussy Willows and Hepatica were first to bloom, but this year Bloodroot is the winner. Last spring, I planted a few new Bloodroot plants beneath the hedgerow near the pond and stream. The plants are south-facing, and in full sun most of the day because there aren’t any leaves out yet.
For the first time ever, I saw a bee visiting Bloodroot flowers. Sadly, there were only 4 flowers to visit. My bigger Bloodroot clump in the front garden wasn’t far behind though (3rd photo). Crocuses that I planted a long time ago soon bloomed as well, so maybe the bee found them too.
Busy Pussy Willows (April 15, 2023)
Mid-April, Bloodroot, Hepatica, and Pussy Willows were in bloom. By far, the Pussy Willows were the center of pollinator activity. While trying to get photos of a bumblebee queen drinking nectar from catkins, I caught 3 different insects in 1 photo — the bumblebee is in the center, a Mourning Cloak butterfly is in the background (right), and a Small Carpenter bee is flying by on the left.
Over the past few years, I’ve taken many photos of butterflies in our garden, but this is the first one where you can see the butterfly’s proboscis (like a straw) rolled up (2nd photo). Usually, I see the proboscis uncurled so it can drink nectar from flowers. In the 3rd photo, the butterfly is drinking nectar upside down.
Hepatica (April 14 to 20, 2023)
I’ve been buying Hepatica plants from Connaught Nursery for a few years now, so I finally have a couple of small drifts of them. They are dainty flowers in shades of pink, blueish-pink, and white.
Unfortunately, the rabbits like to eat them. They already ate my blueish ones before I got photos. I made rustic-looking, chicken-wire cloches (last photo) to cover the remaining flower clusters. I moulded the chicken wire around a mixing bowl. I really want the Hepatica to go to seed and spread.
Kinglets are back! (April 23, 2023)
I went out to the greenhouse and heard the cheerful song of Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Sure enough, there were a couple of Kinglets hopping around the hedgerow and cedar hedge hunting for insects. Boy, the male’s red crown feathers sure stood out against the grey sky and branches.
Chickadee hunting in the Pussy Willows (April 22, 2023)
Even when the Pussy Willow catkins were fading, there were still a lot of insects flying around them. A few times, I spotted Chickadees hunting for insects in the shrubs.
In the 2nd and 3rd photos, it looks like a Chickadee caught and ate a bee. The red hair on the bee’s thorax makes me think it might have been a Dunning’s Mining Bee.
Bees visiting Red Maple flowers (May 2, 2020)
In mid-April, I took lots of photos of bees visiting Red Maple flowers, but few turned out. The tree is getting so tall that even the zoom lens has trouble capturing clear photos of insects so far away. So, here are some photos from 2020 instead, when the tree was shorter.
A few years ago, I learned how important trees are to bees while listening to a PolliNation podcast 113 – Kass Urban-Mead – Bees in trees? The researcher found that bees often collect pollen from wind-pollinated canopy trees, even when they’re near orchards with lots of fruit tree blooms available. In Pollinators of Native Plants, author Heather Holm recommends Red Maples as particularly valuable trees for pollinators.
Bumblebee queen visiting Fly Honeysuckle flowers (April 28, 2023)
For the first time, I protected my Fly Honeysuckle shrubs from the rabbits in the winter using rings of chicken wire. So, for the first time I have lots of Fly Honeysuckle flowers. I saw a bumblebee queen enjoying them.
The white flowers in the background are Bloodroot. Plants in more shade are blooming weeks later than ones in the sun.
I can’t believe that Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis) isn’t more widely planted. It’s a pretty, small shrub that grows in dry shade. It has early, creamy-yellow flowers that turn into bright red berries. It’s blooming after the Pussy Willows, but before the other shrubs in my hedgerow. I think Wild Plum will be next to bloom, followed by Serviceberries.
I bought my Fly Honeysuckle shrubs from Ferguson Tree Nursery in Kemptville, ON. I have 3 in the front and 5 in the backyard. I hope to get a few more during their upcoming open house weekends.
Sparrows have arrived: White Throated Sparrows are just passing through, while Chipping Sparrows are here to stay (April 23, 2023)
A few White Throated Sparrows arrived recently. They will only be around for a while before they continue to their breeding grounds.
Chipping Sparrows also arrived around the same time. Unlike the White-throated Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows stay here for the summer. We usually have a pair that nest in the hedge. The Chipping Sparrows are smaller than White-throateds. Late in the summer I often mistake them for warblers, until I look with the camera or binoculars and see their rusty-brown caps.
Bumblebee queen at Pulmonaria ‘Bertram Anderson’ (April 28, 2023)
Before I ever grew native woodland plants, Pulmonaria ‘Bertram Anderson’ and Hepatica were my first flowers to bloom. Pulmonaria seems to provide abundant nectar for bumblebee queens. Here, a Two-spotted queen visited the flowers very systematically. I’m not sure where she gathered the pollen — maybe from Bloodroot or the neighbours’ daffodils.
In the 2nd photo, her weight pulled the flower down, but it sprung back up after she moved to a different one.
Non-native Hellebores are recommended for pollinators, but I’ve only seen a bee visit these flowers once in April 2021 (last photo).
With better weather ahead for May, there will be lots more flowers, pollinators, and birds to see in the garden and to share with you.
2 thoughts on “In the garden: April 2023”
wonderful article Berit, thanks for sharing with me and others. You are incredibly knowledgeable about birds and plants. Amazing. Hope we can get together sooner than later. Isn’t this rainy weather getting a bit much? Margo Margo Rosen “Eat fresh foods, not too much, mostly plants” Michael Pollan Be rememberedforever by Temple Israel with a legacy gift in your will, lifeinsurance policy or retirement fund
Michele from Churchill, here. We would love to come see your garden, if that’s of interest to you. We have 16 students so it may be too many at once, but we would also be able to come in 2 smaller groups if that’s preferred. Not sure if you do visits to groups, but perhaps you could contact me? I LOVE your updates! Very inspiring:)