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


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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Bees, Flowers and “Project Lavender”.

The lavender here in the south is still going strong which is good because  I have a lovely commission to paint a honeybee with some lavender. They do go together so well don’t they?

I have been quite taken with the many different varieties of  lavender that I have seen growing in peoples gardens locally and all bee lovers know that lavender is a top bee magnet. It is included in all the bee friendly plant lists… but who knows how accurate the lists are?? 

Project Lavender

To address the rather random collections of hearsay, The University of Sussex is doing an interesting trial this year to find out which garden flowers are really the very best value for bees and other pollinators with an emphasis on urban, garden and park plantings. They are looking particularly at lavender, 14 different types to be precise.  The project is called appropriately “Project Lavender”

Here is a quote from their site

“late summer and autumn are difficult times for honey bees to find forage, as opposed to spring, when most plants are blooming. Therefore, lavender was chosen for its late flowering period. Fourteen popular varieties of lavender to be tested in this experiment were recommended by Downderry Nursery… In addition, other common garden plants will be tested, such as geranium, nasturtium, dahlia, borage and others. The results of this experiment will help people make well-informed choices for their bee-friendly gardens, helping not only honey bees, but also bumblebees and other pollinators facing current declines.

The project started in May and you can read more about it here. Endearingly, they are also looking at 

“..the efficacy of hedges or lattice fences around an apiary in reducing stinging, by forcing bees to fly high, thereby reducing collisions with humans.
key aim of this research is to provide information that will allow honey bees to be kept in allotments, thereby providing urban beekeepers places to keep hives and at the same time providing pollination.”

Nice! I am not entirely sure about the policy on bees and allotments, it seems to vary. 

Below: Dad’s unnamed lavender in July just beginning to blossom..spot the red tailed bumble bee.

dads lavender

Downderry Nursery has a site full of lavenders and lavender info. I had no idea there were so many different classifications. At the Nursery they breed new species and also tip their hat at the enthusiastic contribution made by bees.

“we’re often surprised by the wonderful plants produced by open pollinated ‘breeding’, courtesy of bees!

Thanks to their nice site I now know my bracteole from my calyx. Their plant pages are beautiful shade cards of pinks, mauves, purples and blues, with wonderful names like Twickel Purple, Miss Muffet, Night of Passion and Walberton's Silver Edge.


I haven’t got very far with the painting due to relocation ups and  downs.. but we have decided that this little honey bee, flying in amongst the lavender, will be carrying a nice full load of pollen, because Debbie, my patient client is a beekeeper!

Rough sketch for bee with lavender:

bee 2 sm


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Bees and lavender really do go together. Our lavender is always humming. It's one of the few non-native plants I'm happy to leave growing here, as it loves our climate, and the bees are dotty for it when little else is in bloom.

Anonymous said...

I`m so excited - I have ordered your book today yahooo I can`t wait to get it now !

I am busy planting lavenders at the moment, my bees love them and I am right into planting bee food ! Have also just started my little piece of NZ native bush with bird and bee trees to help encourage more native birds into my garden, the introduced birds like thrush, blackbird, sparrows and minors chase everything else away. .

I can`t wait to read your book and drool over the beautiful paintings.

Sunflower said...

I'll try this again. I have had a blog for several months for our nursery but have help with it so I haven't learned the art of commenting very well. Your artwork is exquisite. We're big fans of bees, butterflies and other pollinators here.

Shady Gardener said...

Way to go! Hope you're doing alright with your moving, etc. I'm amazed you're already right back at work!! :-)

Nick Mann said...

Hi Val,

Thanks for this blog - I think it's a great project, and as you say rather overdue! Lavender is indeed a fab bee plant. We're working with the Bee Lab at Sussex, and will be selling the cultivars that do best in the trial, supplied of course by Downderry, from next spring. We are donating half of our profits on sales to the Lab. I wrote a blog about it a little while ago: http://blog.habitataid.co.uk/?p=2188 for details.

Jill said...

I have some self seeding purple salvia growing in my garden which is still blooming - there are still common carder bees (I think) visiting. It blooms for longer than the lavender (but doesn't smell).