A Day at Kew
My mid-summer visit to Kew Gardens was easily organised. I had a whole spare day in London, and wanted to take a river boat trip on the Thames. I could spend a day at Kew - the perfect destination.
And the perfect start for a visitor to London - famous Big Ben bonging the mid-day chimes as my boat headed off up-river from Westminster Pier. But what would the gardens themselves be like?
A Kew Red Cordyline
Oops. Initial disappointment, understandable as I made a beeline for the Azalea Gardens and the Rhododendron Dell - wrong season! Noisy jet planes overhead - this wasn't the gentle English parkland ambience I'd been looking forward to.
The Palm House
But it only took a couple of magnificent glass-houses, an extremely long vista, and a clutch of New Zealand cabbage trees to cheer me up. Here are my impressions from A Day at Kew.
Sorry - but I'll start with the planes, to get them over with. Kew is underneath the flight approach to Heathrow, London's super-busy airport. Enough said.
Using the trusted 'Mississippi one, Mississippi two' method of timing, I estimated an average of one jet plane per 54 seconds. Oddly, I seemed to be the only visitor who kept looking up - we New Zealanders must have super-sensitive garden visiting souls...
Actually, I have a rather nice series of photographs of planes flying over Oak trees, large Eucalyptus trees, assorted conifers, large Magnolias, and so on...
There were many grey-haired gentlewomen visiting Kew. On the visitor's trolley-bus they discussed what the royal family did last weekend. Around the lake they took up prime painting positions - a clutch of grey water-colourists, dabbing brushes into pots and producing green blobby shapes on paper (I peeped).
Ha! None of the grey-haired gentlewoman were to be found lingering inside the hot and humid Palm House. This beautiful structure typifies the Victorian obsession with collecting and displaying tropical plants, ferns, and, of course, palm trees. It was full of robed and turbaned men - were they all homesick? Sick of the English weather? Hmm...
A newer set of ten computer controlled glass-house rooms have recently been opened - they're collectively called the Princess of Wales Conservatory. As a dutiful mother of a son who has a cactus collection, I took a few respectful photographs in the arid, dry room. These conservatory rooms had some wonderful plant collections - definitely the top attraction at the gardens.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory
The scree garden at the entrance has a trio of Cordylines standing guard over some succulent desert-style spikies. Odd company for a native plant used to the greenery of the New Zealand native bush. But I was getting used to Cordylines popping up in settings both expected and unexpected.
A Kew Cordyline
New Zealand Cabbage Trees
It's far too silly that the English call these Cabbage Palms - or even Palm trees. I found green Cordylines sitting in beds surrounded by flowers, and red Cordylines in pots. And yes - I greeted each one, took its photograph, and giggled.
And I politely harassed an English gentleman to take my photograph in front of the best one. He probably heard my accent and thought I was a silly Australian!
So my Day at Kew ended up being a lot of fun. It's a pity that I completely missed the biggest glasshouse, called the Temperate House. I can't believe I did that - how embarrassing.
Read The Brochure!
Memo to self - next time, read the brochure before you start wandering! And stop getting distracted. There's much more to Kew than jet planes and New Zealand Cabbage trees!