With our cold and often wet spring weather, early blooming fruit such as plum, pear, and cherry can have trouble getting pollinated. Fortunately, there are a number of early bloomers that attract mason bees and other early pollinators to your garden. Here are some good options:
Pieris japonica: This evergreen shrub is related to Rhododendron and comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Pieris blooms from late winter into early spring, and has a sweet, mild fragrance. It is deer resistant, and tolerates a wide range of conditions once established.
Skimmia japonica– Skimmia is an early pollinator magnet. It is an early blooming evergreen shrub that has fragrant white flowers in late winter/early spring. Skimmia has both male and female plants. The male produces pretty reddish flower buds in winter, which attract pollinators when in bloom. The female plant has smaller fragrant flowers which become red fruits in late summer and fall. Skimmia is best suited to semi-shaded areas out of hot afternoon sun. A male plant is necessary for the female to fruit. Skimmia is deer resistant.
Daphne odora– This is the plant that Ciscoe claims is “so fragrant it will make your socks roll up and down”. Winter daphne is a somewhat open evergreen shrub for semi-shade areas. The golf ball sized purple tinged white flowers are highly attractive to people and pollinators alike. It is also deer resistant. Daphne flowers cut well and will perfume your house.
Helleborus varieties– So many new varieties, so little space. These mostly evergreen perennials bloom throughout late winter and early spring. They are long blooming and come in staggering color and variety. The flowers hold up very well through freezes and are very attractive to early pollinators.
Photo by Stan Shrebs [CC-BY-SA-2.5] via Wikimedia