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About Bee Dawson

About Bee

A one-time Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) psychologist, Bee turned to writing in her early 40s.

Taking advantage of a family trip to Borneo and inspired by a love of plants, Bee led her husband and two young children on an adventure through the jungle to find the world’s largest single flower. Her article and images of the enormous, extremely rare and foul smelling Rafflesia led to her first story for New Zealand Gardener and launched her career.

Bee jumped from magazine columnist to author a few articles later when she was commissioned by Penguin to write her first book, Lady Painters, the Flower Painters of Early New Zealand. The book grew out of her article on intrepid English painter Marianne North (1830-1890), who roamed the globe in search of interesting new plants to record on canvas.

Born in Northern Ireland, Bee came to New Zealand as a small child and grew up on a Canterbury farm at the foothills of the Southern Alps. She studied psychology at Canterbury University and obtained a Masters degree in industrial psychology, joining the RNZAF as an occupational psychologist soon after.


Bee has written twenty critically-acclaimed New Zealand social histories. A History of Gardening in New Zealand, was chosen as one of the New Zealand Listener’s 100 best books of 2010.

Bee’s work has also appeared in New Zealand Gardener, NZ House & Garden, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and Country Life magazines.

Bee has given many talks around the country on the subjects of her books. An entertaining and frank public speaker with a wry sense of humour, she has also been a guest on national television and radio.

She is a member of PHANZA (Professional Historians’ Association of New Zealand) and of the Australian Garden History Society.

Bee received the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture’s Garden History Award in 2011 and was the recipient of The Royal Aeronautical Society’s Campbell B Award for Aviation Writing (2001).