Mid Season Bee Flowers and Drawing





The sloth of sloth came to stay for a couple of days. He and I just wanted to celebrate it being May.

It’s my very favourite month…. But now back to the bees and flowers with only a short time left… So a few more sketches of favourite bee flowers.
Mid season is not so difficult for bees. I shall be adding the notes when they are all complete, but, as I sketch them, I am aware that they fall into certain families and perhaps, considering useful bee flowers by family, rather than individually, is a very good way to approach them, for example; Thistle family, Daisy family, Rose family, Lamiums etc, and, within those families are both “cultivated” and “uncultivated” varieties.

What is wild and What is not?
The more I consider the whole subject, the less clear I am about the definition of a “wildflower”. Many of the plants below can fall into either category.
I know the dictionary definition but it is strange in some ways that we grow Stachys byzantina “Lambs ears” or “Woolly Betony” in the garden but relegate Stachys sylvatica, “Hedge Woundwort” and the old medicinal herb Stachys officinalis “Betony” to the wildflower meadow, (well we would if we could find one).
Some of the wild varieties are just as beautiful as their cultivated counterparts, but maybe not so showy. When I was a little girl we would grow cornflowers and scabious as annuals in the garden but lovely delicate corn poppies were weeded out immediately.
My father is still not a fan of foxgloves (recent weeding altercation!) but loves wallflowers which are really just pretty mustard plants.
Then mustard then falls into yet another category and becomes a “crop”.
A crop which used to set the local fields ablaze with yellow.

The common yellow Verbascum thrapsus Great Mullein is classified by some as a noxious weed but is also related to the dainty garden snapdragon. Planning my imaginary bee garden is a complete nightmare of indecision and procrastination. But, I will know to plant things in drifts, choose natives and not to go for double flowers.. which I am not very keen on anyway, give me a simple single rose any day. And I will be annoying the neighbours by letting my dandelions frolic and multiply.

stachys     cornflower copy

Stachys Lambs Ears and Cornflower

scabius sm     budd

Scabious family and Buddlias

deadnettle     foxglove

Dead nettles and Foxgloves

wallflower      verb sm

Wallflowers and Verbascum

If nothing else, these quick sketches are really giving me a much greater understanding of the flower families, of their wild and tame relationships and their usefulness to bees, both in the wild and in gardens.

Draw and Understand

As soon as you start to draw something you begin to see the similarities of structures and can understand why a bee will like both field beans and the common vetch. The great botanical art collector Shirley Sherwood said “ the best way to know plants, as every gardener knows is to try to draw one” it is good advice. As you are drawing you can’t help but make connections and see likenesses, much more so than looking at a photograph.

It’s trying to reconstruct something that makes you look so hard at it. It doesn’t matter how good or bad your drawing is, it’s what you have needed to observe, and the subsequent understanding which is important.
The act of drawing will also help you to remember the thing too. I wish more people would pick up a pencil just for the joy of discovery, but drawing is seldom really promoted like that.

Like many other things it gets bogged down in superficial slickness and the pressure to produce something that looks exactly like the thing, instead of a fascinating tool to understanding the thing.
I have to admit that I get rather wrapped up in the whole process and chat away to myself (only in private, so far) while I am drawing.. its usually something like; ”Hmmm so that’s supposed to join up there” or “ How does that shape work ” or very often..
Oh Christ.. why did I do that!”..

Meanwhile Happy May everyone! I hope your bees are busy and your flowers blooming, better late than never!

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  1. You're 'quick sketches' are lovely! I couldn't anything like that even if I laboured over it for a month 🙁
    I know I should at least try and I am trying… in my mind! And those mental sketches are the most beautiful things you ever saw.
    But in honour of this post, I think I'll actuallytry a paper sketch this time.

  2. My bees are hard at work in our very early spring. A non-drawer, I must confess, where I learn about my plants is by taking photo close-ups – it's helped me understand often why two plants belong to the same group. Trying to find what is native is difficult for us too – so many European imports are considered native now. Every now and then I say I'm going to take some time and visit the Herbacetum at the Royal Botanical Gardens – there's some excellent material from the 1800s showing what was on the land before it was disturbed by agriculture.

  3. I like your little sloth – she looks like I felt awhile ago ! May in NZ is one of my fav months also, autumn with the nights drawing in, scarlet and butter yellow leaves, cold and snuggly nights . . .

    Your Dad wasn`t the only old man who didn`t like foxgloves – my lovely Dad was horrified when he saw that I had planted them in my garden, to him they were dreadful weeds that came up all over the steep hillsides where we farmed – mostly the purple variety – I smile when ever I se them now ..

  4. Your flower sketches are inspiring – inspiring me to get back to planning my bee garden! We're trying to entice some Mason bees to move into our garden, have built them a house and put out some water, but there aren't many summer flowering plants for them. I would also like to keep the dandelions for the bees, but cannot convince my hubby that it's a good idea. Oh well, time to fine some flowers that like the shade.

  5. Thank you all for you comments.. forgive late response..slight exhibition panic setting in!

    S: lovely to hear from Mumbai and believe me I do know what you mean about those mental pictures! but give it a try without the pressure of perfection..

    B: the herbacetum sounds fascinating, do they have online resource? I guess the bees are not really so fussy as long as they can get the pollen and nectar, but it does seem they do better on natives.. interesting isn't it?

    E: 🙂

    M: the foxglove thing must be a generation attitude..:).. I love them.
    May here is our last respite before the suffocating Florida summer.. but will be in the UK for 6 weeks which will no doubt be changeable!

    Lynne. planning a bee garden, lovely, I envy you. Good luck with the mason bees. I am sure they will respond to your bee friendly feelings.. and just refer your husband to me! 🙂

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