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 Lambs Ears and Cornflower
Scabious family and Buddlias
Dead nettles and Foxgloves
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!