"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Friday, 23 April 2010

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.

image

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! image

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

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Bombus Terrestris and the beautiful curving flower head of Comfrey

Symphytum officinale

terrestris and comfreysm

Watercolor on Arches HP 8”x 8”

7 comments:

patientgardener said...

Rescued a bee from the greenhouse today, think it was suffering from heat exhaustion. Seemed to recover once it was outside in the shade

Marcia said...

I do enjoy reading your blog and discovering your gorgeous paintings. would it be possible for me to have info of your exhibition - just to drool over ? I can send you the money through which ever way you would like it - I really also want to buy a print or 2 if there are any available - I really do love your work - do you have a catalogue ?

sharp green pencil said...

PG: wonderful ! and nice to hear that the UK is having some heat.If you happen to have some diluted honey around that can sometimes give them a quick boost!

Marcia: You are so kind! email on way and poster. I do hope to get prints, soonish.

Shady Gardener said...

I'm going to echo Marcia. I'd love to see what you might have for sale! :-)

Roasted Garlicious said...

awww patientgardener so kind of you :D i've been rescuing mason bees which have been coming in the house and since getting a small greenhouse they enter there as well... there is plenty of exits so am hoping they just come and go :D i love your comfrey painting.. i'm a big fan of comfrey as are the bees and ants... :D

Blackbird said...

I do love your paintings, beautifully detailed. I was a bit surprised for your bumblebee choice to go with comfrey. Bombus terrestris do feed on comfrey, but having too short a tongue to reach the nectar it lands on top of the flower, they bite the flowers and then 'robs' the nectar drawing its tongue through the hole. I witnessed this behaviour just today, a large Bombus terrestris queen, noisily chewing the flowers! The most common bumbles on comfrey are B. pascuorum and B. pratorum (B. hypnorum likes it too). I must get a photo and write more about this!

sharp green pencil said...

Blackbird thank you so much! This is an extra to my original set and wanted to get both comfrey and terrestris in together and yes I do know about the nectar robbing, so this will be a nice opportunity to say something about it. Will make it clear if it does go in the show. Not all the paintings have the bees actual forage plants with them. Sometimes like the girdled mining bee it's just a handy platform to sit them on!