11 October 2018

Kew

On my birthday, after an exquisite breakfast in "The Ritz", we ventured to Kew Gardens. I guess the last time we were there was in the mid-eighties when Ian was riding in his pushchair like The Prince of Siam.

We arrived at eleven in the morning and left at five in the afternoon but we could have stayed much longer because we missed certain things such as The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of botanical art and the Bonsai House. It would be impossible to cover everything in a single day at Kew Gardens.

The gardens have been in existence since 1772. They emerged from old royal estates that would at that time have been in open countryside west of London. The famous Palm House was constructed between 1844 and 1848. The establishment of Kew Gardens coincided with imperial exploration of the planet. Exotic plants were being brought back to London from every corner of the world.
The Palm House - after applying "Waterlogue"
Kew Gardens are much more than a leisure venue. Run by The Royal Botanical Society, they are underpinned by science and the thirst for knowledge and preservation of species. The gardens cover three hundred acres south of a loop in The River Thames near Richmond and they contain over 14,000 trees.
In the rafters of The Palm House
If you were to make a heat map showing which parts of Kew are most visited you would I am sure find that the three main glasshouses come top of the list - The Palm House, the newly refurbished Temperate House and The Princess of Wales Conservatory. On my birthday there were a lot of schoolchildren in these locations - holding clipboards and pens. They were also on The Treetop Walkway that I had been specially looking forward to.

It was a joy to stroll under majestic trees, along grassy avenues. There were redwoods, black pines, mighty English oaks and sweet chestnut trees. In the Victorian Palm House the tropical trees battle for light, soaring up to the glass rooftop and the air is warm and humid like a jungle.

One of my lasting memories of the birthday excursion will be the titan arum in The Princess of Wales Conservatory. This bizarre plant hails from the now shrinking jungles of Sumatra. It emerges from the earth like a mighty column, growing perhaps six inches a day until it finally bursts into bloom emitting a powerful odour like rotting meat that in the wild attracts varied pollinators. If you would like to know more about this amazing plant go here.
Titan arum -  Amorphophallus titanum
Seeing so many different plants together - from cacti to carnivores, from water lilies to pampas grasses, plants from every continent - it reminds visitors that we live on an amazing planet. Each plant is different and in its own way truly wonderful. Without necessarily spelling it out in written words, Kew Gardens announces the awesome majesty and incredible variety of the botanical world and says - Cherish and Save or Lose!
Nelumbo - "Baby Doll"
Sweet chestnut seen from the Treetop Walkway
Callianthe picta in The Temperate House

33 comments:

  1. I was last in London about 4 years ago and my friend and I spent a whole day at Kew - and yes, could have spent many more. It was amazing.

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    1. You and your friend made a very good choice Margie. I agree with the word "amazing".

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  2. I didn't realize that the Titan Arum is blooming! Now I'm motivated to visit -- though it looks like the flower isn't quite open yet...?

    As you said, a single day at Kew isn't enough to see everything. I'm always amazed at the age of some of those plants -- going right back to the 1700s when the garden was first founded. It puts our human lifespan in perspective!

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    1. Regarding the titan arum - I must admit that I don't fully understand its processes. I wonder if Kew has a Twitter account or some means of finding out what the likely scenario will be.

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  3. It's going on my list !

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    1. My visit reminded me that Kew is a wondrous place, There is surely no other place like it on Earth.

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  4. That's a birthday excursion after my own heart. What a fascinating place, and like Helsie, I just added it to my list of things to see if and when I visit England.

    The photo of the callianthe picta has the most gorgeous colors...no need for waterlogue there! I've heard of titan arum, and while it's a fascinating plant I don't feel any curiousity regarding it's alleged scent!

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    1. Regarding the scent, I expect it's rather like the odour emitted from a White House washroom after a Trump dump!

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    2. Since he reportedly subsists on a steady diet of McDonalds and Diet Coke I'll bet you're right.

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    3. Who needs fracking? Just attach a pipe to Trump.

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  5. I'm glad you had a great birthday there. Lovely photos. I was there in June and a day was definitely not long enough.

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    1. I hope you didn't take any cuttings ADDY!

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  6. If you're in the neighborhood, a visit to our Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, PA, would be similar. While not nearly so old (for obvious reasons), it is equally fascinating. And definitely not doable in only one visit. Glad you had such a lovely, momentous birthday.

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    1. Thank you for that advice Mary. Who knows? Perhaps one day I will make it back to the USA. I hope so...and Philadelphia is not a city I visited before.

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  7. Kew Gardens would certainly hold my attention.

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    1. I am not sure that Canadians are allowed in...but The Micro Manager should be okay.

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  8. Happy Birthday to you, my lovely friend. Would love to see the Kew Gardens some day....if I ever make it across the pond again. Our Denver Botanical Gardens has a titan arum which blooms about every other year. Within a couple weeks of its stinky show, the local television channels report every evening on the growth of the plant for the last 24 hours and when the scientists at the Gardens expect it to bloom. Then people line up to see (and smell) it for the few days it is in bloom.

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    1. I am glad that there is no such thing as titan arum air freshener!

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  9. What a lovely place to visit!

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    1. In some areas of the grounds there were no other visitors in view. Only the endless chain of planes heading for Heathrow Airport reminded us we were in a big city.

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  10. I love kew, been there many times

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    1. This was just the third visit in my life.

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  11. My so far only visit to Kew Gardens took place nearly 20 years ago. The treetop walk did not yet exist (I think), but I remember the Palm House.
    The Stuttgart zoo (Wilhelma) also has a titan arum. When its blossom opens, it is big news for our local media, and special night-time visiting hours are organised.

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    1. The titan arum is indeed a spectacular and newsworthy plant.

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  12. An interesting, fascinating visit,,,Nature...so clever...so beautiful.

    Did you have to queue to get in?

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    1. No queue. It was after all a Monday morning.

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  13. I had a calianthe picta (known to me as Chinese lantern) in my back yard for a while. They are very attractive.

    It sounds like a fantastic thing to do and I really appreciate the gardens' value as a place of conservation and inspiration

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    1. Botanists from Kew monitor plant health around the world and regularly encounter previous;y unknown species. It is a place where you don't mind paying your admission fee.

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  14. I went for the day - will get to it in my tripposts eventually - and spent the whole time in The Shirley Sherwood Gallery ha ha. So it was good to get a taste of the rest through your post YP. Thank you. I'm glad you had such a great day.

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    1. It wouldn't surprise me if you are Shirley Sherwood in disguise Kate!

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  15. I went to Kew some months ago with a group of friends....it was all lovely until the heavens opened and my lightweight " Mac" turned out to totally porous ! I was soaked for hours! Then, on the way home the trains were all over the place and we had to get out at St. Albans.....5 miles from home. Luckily between the 8 of us we had 2 husbands who could come and fetch us. I really need to go again when I can stay dry and see some areas that we missed. Sounds like you really enjoyed it.

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    1. You have got two husbands Frances? Rather than having two husbands you would be better off investing in a reliable raincoat! Kew in the rain would certainly not appeal to me.

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  16. If I had a bucket list, going to the Kew Gardens would be on it.

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