Leaf of the Day: Busy Bees, Big Paintings and Blog Interview

Me and the bees have been very busy this weekend. I have been working on the big paintings and the bees have just been working. I think the bees are making more progress.

I have taken a few photos recently where the bees are slightly better than just a blur.

Here, approaching the Toothache Tree.

Here, with Lemon Blossom.

Here, on a Banana flower.

Here, high in the sky, with the strange Grevillia flower, which I would love to draw but all are way out of normal human reach.

Here with the Lemon Bottle Brush…where the mocking birds were also helping themselves to the nectar.

Here approaching the stunning, huge Shaving Brush Flower, which I will hopefully paint as one of my white flower series, all those stamens are a bit daunting though.

and lastly on the Sweet Almond..


A big thank you to Karrita at mymothersgardens.blogspot.com who was also busy getting my images onto blogger. She was kind enough to ask for a short online interview for her interesting series “Artists in the Garden”, which you can read here.
I was delighted to oblige.

I have been wrestling all weekend with the big tree pattern paintings which have taken on lives of their own (as paintings often do). They are not really as I had planned and were not as simple as I had hoped. The twisting live oak branches are just about finished and the lone pine three quarters finished. Just before I had to stop for the night I added some lightning. The paintings really reflect my experiences of my time here, what I have noticed and what makes an impression on me. The summer storms are spectacular and something I will always remember. Although the paintings are not finished I put them on the wall to get away from them both physically and mentally for a while, but with only a week to go to the exhibition and much to do, they may just stay there.

Two Trees

Leaf of the Day:Samara of the Southern Red Maple

Today, to get back to painting, a study of one of the small samaras of the Southern Red Maple Acer rubrum v trilobum, native to Eastern United States and growing at Leu down by the lake overlook, with a small companion Sugar Maple, Acer saccarum ssp Foridanum nearby. There were bunches of these pretty winged seeds all over the ground a couple of weeks ago and I think, had I painted this one immediately, the colours would have been brighter. It’s very small, only 2.5 inches from the top of the wing to the bottom of the stem
This particular variety is distinguished from the regular Acer rubrum by its smaller and 3 lobed rather than 5 lobed leaves, which generally turn yellow rather than red in the autumn.

Trilobum leaves

Staminate, Male Flowers
These super photos by Will Cook, from the excellent reference page at “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of North Carolina” site here

These beautiful small flowers are also much loved by bees in the spring, and the more I learn about bees, the more concerned I am about them, and the need to plant and encourage bee friendly plants.

And the Red Maple is not only beautiful but useful. The early European settlers learnt how to utilise the maples from the native Indians and the Red Maple was used amongst other things to make ink and dye stuffs. Peter Kalm the student of Linneus wrote of the Red Maple in 1750, “Out of its wood they make plates, spinning wheels, spools, feet for chairs and beds and many other kinds of turnery. With the bark they dye both worsted and linen, giving it a dark blue color.”

Despite the icy temperatures of last week we haven’t seen snow here but those in northern climes must welcome the splash of colour from this lovely tree.
Here is a description from Donald Culross Peattie’s “Trees of Eastern and Central North America” again.
” All seasons of the year the Red Maple has something red about it. In winter the buds are red, growing a brilliant scarlet as winter ends, the snow begins to creep away and the ponds to brim with chill water and trilling frog music. So bright in fact that if one takes an airplane flight anywhere across the immense natural range of this tree one can pick out the red Maples by the promise of spring in their tops, for no other tree quite equals them at this season in quality or intensity of colour.

Ah… the promise of spring, doesn’t that lift your spirits? We already have more vocal birds here and yes, the frogs are getting noisier too..


Red Maple Samara

Size, 3.5 “. Watercolour on Arches HP

Leaf of the Day:More Tea, Lovely Bees..and the Untrustworthy Orchid

I spent a few hours today at the Gardens taking slightly different routes. With all the clearing of undergrowth and general tidying up, some of the usually overgrown parts are accessible and today I found some new trees and went “off path” by the lake shore and in amongst the trees in the South Woods. If you don’t venture off path you will miss things like the Midnight Horror tree, the Wax Jambu, and one of yesterday’s finds the Looking Glass Tree. When/if I have more time I will draw my own map of the gardens, but here is a shot from the wonderful Google Earth (don’t you just love to fly around the world with them!).

It makes the Gardens look so neat and compact that it is hard to believe that almost every week I find the odd lost person, looking for the exit. But there are 50 acres and over 3 miles of paths.
So today I wandered from top right to top left all along the shore and then down to bottom left in amongst the many winding paths of the South Woods, which are just visible amongst the trees. You can understand why I am there so long, especially as I am stopping to look at everything as I go. The formal Rose Garden shows so clearly here in the centre here but is somewhere I seldom visit.

So, short of time today, just a couple more drawings of the lovely tea plant and two photos from today with the bees with the tea flowers. They were so busy they didn’t even notice me.

I am very very fond of bees.
Given the very worrying recent decline in their numbers I feel we should all have a hive in the back garden. My parents kept bees. Not only are they wonderful and endearing creatures, they are vital to our planet’s well being and ours too. Without their tireless pollination a third of our food crops would die, to say nothing of the wild flowers and trees that the animals rely on. To be without them is unthinkable. Here is an extract from the recent book “A World Without Bees” by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum, who were looking into the causes of the decline in the bee population. Partly to blame in America may be the factory farming attitude to commercial bee keeping where bees are shipped by the lorry load to pollinate crops all over the country.

“They are driven thousands of miles on the backs of huge trucks from the far corners of the United States, their hives stacked five-high. Half of all the 2.5 million honeybee colonies in the US make this annual cross-country trek from as far afield as Massachusetts in the east and Florida in the south.

They are even flown in from Australia to boost the numbers for the pollination task. It’s hard not to see an analogy with other migrant workers and their plight.

The writers compare this with their own back garden hive;

This intensive, migratory beekeeping is a far cry from the hobby we pursue in our small back garden in south London. The only move for our bees was from the apiary where we collected them to the spot by the wall where their hive has sat for a couple of years. From this sheltered location, they happily forage from spring right through to the end of autumn for nectar and pollen among the parks, gardens, railway sidings and tree-lined roads that dot the Battersea landscape. In the process they make enough honey to keep us and them well fed throughout the year.

There is something magical about watching your bees return home after a hard day’s foraging on a balmy summer evening. For many urban apiarists who work all day in an office, they are an antidote to the stresses of city life. Creating a rural idyll in a corner of a housing estate was our small way of trying to reconnect with nature. It fulfilled something we knew was missing from our lives, a feeling we couldn’t quite put our finger on, but is now being termed “nature-deficit disorder”.

You can read more of the extract from the book here and I will be back with more bee related things next week.

This morning I happened to glance at the orchid and suddenly there behind my back with no warning or fanfare was a open flower. It was still tightly wrapped yesterday. I just knew this would happen. I am going to be away for 2 days and by the time I get back the wretched thing will no doubt have opened up completely, my opportunity for some flower-opening sketches missed. Untrustworthy indeed and I know I am not the only one who thinks orchids are a bit suspect.
I am away for two days.. we are having a weekend break to see the sea.. yippee…

Tea Camellia, Flower and Pod