Bees and Herbs

Bee and herbs seem to go very well together don’t they?  Together they conjure up the  quintessential summer afternoon, sweet scents and the gentle hum of bees, tea and cakes, and a comfortable chair in the sun.

I don’t think that bees have a real preference for herbs,  they are only really interested in the pollen and nectar content, but three things that sit very happily together are bees, honey, herbs, all linked somehow with wellbeing and feeling good. Herbs for health, for just smelling nice, for making our food more delightful, honey to sweeten our lives and just a lovely word in itself and bees of course for making the others possible.

The Herb Society The UK Herb Society has a Bee Aware Campaign this year and Debs Cook, (see also her wonderful herb blog Herbal Haven) their tireless webmaster and herb/ bee enthusiast has posted some excellent herby/honey/bee related articles, and also provided this great photo for the cover of their March magazine.


See these pages and more for garden/bee/food ideas.

Herbs To Attract Bees Into The Garden
Honey & Herbs – Syrups & Infused Honey
Honey & Herbs – Pills & Lozenges
Honey & Herbs – Elixirs & Electuaries

and I am delighted to say they have a page about my BUZZ  exhibition so here is something I wrote for them about bees and herbs …

It’s interesting that many of the flowers that delight the bees also delight us and the connection between bees and herbs is well documented. Rev. L L Langstroth, apiarist clergyman and teacher who was considered the Father of American Beekeeping, said “If there is any plant which would justify cultivation exclusively for bees, it is the borage”, and borage is just one of many herbs that they visit.
The tiny solitary bees like umbelliferous plants so angelica, fennel and dill will attract them. The bunching together of all those tiny flowers into one inflorescence makes them easy for small bees to access. Dill and fennel will also attract pest eating lacewings and ladybirds too. Daisy like flowers and of course the humble dandelion have similar closely bunched flowers which give bees a nice big banqueting table making the next nectar and pollen stop a very short hop. Mints, sages, thymes, basil and oregano will all attract bees too but of course you must let them flower.
I have read that letting herbs flower will reduce the intensity of the flavour but maybe there is a compromise somewhere or just grow twice as many! In fact you can also let a few vegetables run to flower too, especially early salad greens. Bees, like herbs, like sunny sheltered spots.
Strong wind can blow little bees off the flowers, even though they do have 6 feet.
Another great advantage to having bees around is just the sound of them! I have a lovely memory from last summer of a particularly drowsy afternoon, sitting in the sun and watching the Red Tailed Bumble bees and the Carder Bees drifting amongst the lavender and chives. I painted both of them for the show.

Their site is fascinating and I hope to be attending their conference this year in June which will focus on bees ….and if you are a member you can knit this bee!


I am going to join! I just love what they do. Everything about herbs presses all the right buttons for me!

Bee Flowers,  Herbs

Today was my deadline to get the first eight flowers roughed out and assembled on Photoshop, just to see what they will look like framed.  There will be a few changes but it’s a start!

As always I am in two minds . The designer in me wants a more stylised approach like the chive.. yes  the pink lollipop is a chive 🙂 ….the naturalist in me wants them to be more as you might see them growing.

herbs sm

I also decided to paint an additional B. Terrestris, just to get the much loved herb Comfrey into the show. (It’s is one of the above too) The structure of its curling flower head is very beautiful and elegant as are the two rabbits ear leaves that curve up from the stem..

comfrey sm


Bombus Terrestris and the beautiful curving flower head of Comfrey Symphytum officinale

terrestris and comfreysm

Watercolor on Arches HP 8”x 8”

Leaf of the Day : Basil, Purple Ruffles

Sounding more like a character from a Sheridan Restoration Comedy this little dandy of a basil plant is one of the fancy herbs that you can now buy, and comes in my “eat your models” category of plants, so, as well as drawing it I will be adding it to my sporadic cooking activitities.
Basil Ocimum basilicum L. is one of the staple Mediterranean herbs and brings joy to tomatoes and cheese..I can’t think of anything nicer than a generous plate of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with basil and olive oil.

The derivation of the word “basil” seems unclear but is possibly from the Greek basileus meaning “king”. Some say it has a connection with the wonderful legendary basilisk, against which the herb is, supposedly, a protection and because of this basil was also thought to have medicinal properties when applied to the bites or stings of animals.
The basilisk or cockatrice whose piercing glance, terrifying bite or foetid breath would be fatal, could be kept at bay by eating basil or drinking a suitably strong libation.

Whatever its origin, it’s a lovely excuse to include an image of the beast and a little bit of Pliny’s description.

he killeth all trees and shrubs not only that he toucheth, but that he doth breath upon also: as for grasse and hearbs, those hee sindgeth and burneth up, yea and breaketh stones in sunder: so venimous and deadly is he. It is received for a truth, that one of them upon a time was killed with a launce by an horseman from his horseback, but the poison was so strong that went from his bodie along the staffe, as it killed both horse and man: and yet a sillie weazle hath a deadly power to kill this monstrous serpent.”

Superstition about the basilisk in medieval times was such that travellers would carry a weasel or a cockerel ( an alternative supposed vanquisher of basilisks) as protection.
Another curiously connected legend says that scorpions can be ‘acquired’ from basil plants, so should you wish to add a scorpion to the household pets place a few basil leaves under a flowerpot and after a while you will find a scorpion has taken up residence there.

I am hoping its efficacy in alleviating stings will work some magic on my mosquito bites and I will be putting lots in my pockets to bring good fortune… meanwhile I have to draw it.
It will be one leaf that I will paint for the next submission for the course and is very difficult. The surface of the leaf is…as it says, ” ruffled” or in not so poetic terms, slightly blistered, which is a challenge to draw never mind paint.

I shall return to Basil, purple ruffles, and more basil facts and fiction later when I have tackled the coloured version.

Basil, Purple Ruffles