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Bee Flower Notes.

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Wednesday 21 April 2010

Bee Flower Notes.

To accompany the bees in the exhibition I am hoping to include some notes about the plants they are associated with and which they rely on for both nectar and pollen. Visual notes are better than written notes, however sketchy, and they will add a bit of colour to the show. Really these will be just larger versions of the flower notes I was making before, here.

This, I know, will not be the most riveting post but I use my blog as a sort of online notebook as much as anything else. Writing things down does help me clarify my thoughts and then I can get on, which is rather important as I have been dithering about it all for 5 days now.

The dilemma has been about how to categorize the flowers. I have 6 large frames available and so can divide the flowers into categories.. but how? There are so many possibilities. I tried many different combinations from colours to locations to families. But in the end I thought of what I would like to see as a non specialist and what I would find interesting and useful.

So , the Flowers

One very important thing for bees is to keep the supply of nectar and pollen running through the year so three frames will have:

1 Early Season plants x 8 including crocus, hawthorn, snowdrops, forget me nots.

2 Mid Season plants x 8 including stachys, dead nettle, foxglove, scabious.

3 Late Season plants x 8 including aster, ivy, sedum, sunflower.

Weeds and wild flowers are very important, so one frame for those:

4 Weeds and Wildflowers x 8 including dandelions, thistles, and cow parsley.

Herbs are another important group and of course are just the loveliest plants to have in the garden, so one frame for herbs:

5 Herbs x 8 including the king bee plant borage, chives, mints, rosemary etc

Which leaves me with one….. this could be the edible plants that need bees for pollination or it could be trees.. not sure which yet.

There will be 8 small flower sketches in each frame and although that seems an awful lot to me to get completed in time, in the bee world this is only a fraction of the plants they use. There are many lists of bee friendly plants on the internet and it can get very very confusing, but there are definitely a few firm favourites.


The notes will be sketchy, not highly finished and detailed like the bees, but I need some practice because it means going from super smooth paper to a “not” finish and from the 00 sables to the wonderful but completely different Isaby wash brushes.

W&N series 7 00 sable at the top and two bendy Isaby wash brushes at the bottom. They are capable of beautiful expressive thick and thin brush strokes.

The technique of using them is quite different. With the small sables you “brush” your colour on and they have a springy tip with some resistance which helps you paint very accurately. With the wash brushes you float the colour on and use the tip to guide the paint. You cant “ brush” with these as they have no resistance. They just bend and stay bent, as you can see, but they do have the most beautiful tip and hold lots of paint.

So here are a couple of trials which may or may not make it to the show.

willow Pussy Willow, a vital early Spring source of nectar and pollen and don’t you just love to brush the willow catkins against your cheek?
















lavender smand Lavender.. important for Summer and early Autumn pollen and nectar and of course is gorgeous alone for its colour and heavenly scent..

These are 10 x 3.5” on Arches Not.

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Blogger Africa Gomez said...

May I suggest apple, cherry and pear as trees needing bees for pollination. Pear flowers are lovely as their stamens are deep red. I might post about pear soon as my pear tree is in full bloom and attracting bees and bumblebees...

21 April 2010 at 23:13  
Blogger Meredith said...

Not so boring after all. I love the lavender watercolor! I'd like to make a plea for adding basil to your herb list; it's been our #1 performer in attracting bees to the garden, outdoing even the loveliest of flowers with those tiny, scented blooms. A local organic grower we know surrounds his entire field with basil for this reason. :)

22 April 2010 at 01:17  
Blogger Helen said...

Val, I see you're just as gifted with your botanical drawings as with your bees. Lovely, and I like the long format.

22 April 2010 at 03:22  
Blogger Nichole Campbell said...

The sketches are beautiful-I love the intensity of them that seems to come from the "less finished" look. Please forgive my lack of "artist speak!" I vote for edible plants over trees. I think it helps to reinforce the importance of bees, especially given everything bees are up against lately!

22 April 2010 at 03:25  
Blogger Richard said...

Val - my response on seeing these visual notes is, these are a "bee's-eye view."
That is, you are exhibiting to an educated audience who already know what a lavender or catkin is, and don't need engraving-like accuracy. So the soft washes are fine for giving a feel of what shapes and colours (or hues, or colour densities) bees are actually responding to.
I must go and look up about bees' sight and colour differentiation, I'm assuming they are monochromatic but then why would bee-pollinated flowers have such colour range?
(Meanwhile please carry on with these beautiful sketches.)

22 April 2010 at 03:32  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Thanks so much for your comments all ..but even more thank you for the suggestions!

Blackbird: I had certainly got one fruit down as a certainty. I like the idea of pears though.I really hope you do a post ..I am about to link to your great muscari post!

Meredith:thank you, another great suggestion and how very interesting about your local farmer

Nichole..yes I think fruit has it over trees.. and yet I was reading how vital the lime tree is to honey bees.. Sigh many to choose from I think bee flower paintings could be a lifetimes work :)

Helen: thank you! I was planning on a set of long shapes, but that means less per frame.. decisions decisions.:

Richard:Thank you.. You have made me realise that I should really do a post about the bees eye view of flowers and colours. I know it's the pattern which is revealed to them, rather than the colour, which is most important,as it directs them to the nectar source. It's fascinating and there are many good articles.. one from a few years ago is here
It would be interesting to make a set of flower paintings based on what bees see..or rather what we think they see..who knows' exactly?

22 April 2010 at 10:04  
Blogger Roasted Garlicious said...

how i envy your talents... beautiful work as always :D our fruit trees are just now in full bloom and i'm excited to say buzzing with activity :D

22 April 2010 at 16:07  
Blogger Threadspider said...

I enjoyed the comments almost as much as the post. I was thinking about what plants to add to my garden to keep the nectar going.
I too like the long format and the loose and colourful washes.They are a delightful contrast to the precision of the bees.

22 April 2010 at 19:10  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

RG.. small percent talent large percent hard slog!! believe me!.. but thank you. glad fruit trees are buzzing, should be a good crop.
Threadspider: thanks for the vote of confidence about the watercolours I am still dithering!

25 April 2010 at 10:28  

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