I've been feeling a bit bad for the bees in our garden - they've been out and about for a while now due to the mild winter but, except for the odd primrose and a few short-lived crocuses, there are hardly any flowers round here for them. And we've just cut down several years' worth of overgrown honeysuckle, which they'll miss. And I can't expect them to pollinate my tomato plants all summer long if I don't look after them in the winter, can I?!
Reading up on the subject tells me all the usual spring flowers are good for bees - crocuses, primroses, daffodils, rosemary, dead-nettles, forget-me-nots and fruit blossom - but when bees come out super-early like they did this year (I saw several in January) these may not have bloomed yet. Early in the spring, pussy willow and hazel catkins can provide nectar, and winter-flowering plants are a great help too - heather, hebe and lungwort are particularly recommended (though I don't see our lungwort flowering yet...)
So when I spotted these little winter heather plants for sale yesterday, I had to get a couple - it's well known that bees love heather, and winter varieties flower extremely early and for a long time. I picked plants with lots of buds, so I knew they still had plenty of flowering-time left in them.
I planted them out today, forking some compost into our heavy soil first, planting them level with the surface, and treading them in lightly. It may be too little too late this year really, but they'll be much bigger and much earlier next year, to feed our precious pollinators.