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Home Over the garden gate
A Visit to Kew Gardens
October 2001
by alex

On a visit to see our son in London, the wife and I thought we might catch up on a bit of sight seeing, and as Oxford Street and Knightsbridge (Harrods) is not my idea of sightseeing we opted for Kew Gardens. [ A map of the site can be seen here ]

We both agreed that perhaps October was not the best time of the year
to visit the gardens.

Our thoughts were, that as the UK was in that transition period of summer nearly over,
autumn not quite with us, and winter fast approaching, the quality of plant
 life might not be quite up to standard.

But Kew proved us wrong, this is certainly a garden for all seasons.

If the weather is inclement, there are the ‘heated’ buildings such as the
Princess of Wales Conservatory, The Palm house, The Temperate house, and the museum,
each with its own brand of interest.

Outside there is a fair mix of evergreen & deciduous trees/shrubs and wildlife,
making the woodland a place of interest all the year round.

Back to our visit, true, the summer bedding was virtually over,
the trees had not quite reached their true autumnal colour,
but there were still lots to see.

Along one side of the footpath from Victoria gate to Lion gate the Camellias
were heavily budded.
In a few of months this will be a fantastic sight when they come into bloom.

On the other side there was woodland.

At the end of this footpath we caught a glimpse of the ‘Pagoda’ through the trees.

Pagoda

At this point the path changed direction, and with it, a change of landscape.

'The Chinese garden' complete with traditional gate.

Japanese Garden 1 Japanese Garden 2
Japanese Garden 3

From here we continued through the woodland to the Temperate & Evolution houses.

On entering the Evolution house we were greeted by the site of an active volcano
complete with smoke and sulphurous smell.

Evolution House

The footpath was lined off in periods of a few million years with placards indicating the origin of life from ‘single cell’ microbes to the formation of ‘plant life’.

To give added atmosphere to the various periods of ‘evolution’ there were sounds of prehistoric monsters and imprints of their feet in the concrete footpath.

The next stop was the ‘Temperate house’ complete with its full sized trees, which could be viewed from a high level gallery or from ground level, all in all a very impressive place,
it certainly put my little 10 x 8 greenhouse in its place.

Temperate House 1Temperate House 2

We left the Temperate house and continued our walk along ‘Limes Walk’

Under one of the Limes there was an infestation of fungi, proving that
the Kew gardeners have their problems too.

Lime walkLandscape

At the end of Lime walk out side ‘King William’s temple’ there was this
fantastic plant named 'Ephedra'

Landscape

 [ I have just the spot at home for such a plant, but I resisted taking a cutting.]
 

From there we proceeded towards the Rose garden & Palm house passing
the end of ‘Syon Vista’

Because of time limitations, we chose not to walk down it,
thought would leave that for another time.

We proceeded next to the ‘Palm house’.

Palm House

Once again the sheer scale of things inside were impressive a veritable ‘Rain forest’
with its Coconut palms grown from what is reputed to be the largest plant seed of all,
its banana trees and exotic plants such as Frangipani plumeria rubra
the ‘lobster claw’ plant.

Inside Palm House 1Inside Palm House 2Inside Palm House 3
Inside Palm House 4

All the time we were in the park we took the plant life a bit for granted
i.e. plants were planted where you would expect to see them,never thinking
of that other source of plant life!

   ‘ Those Under the sea

This Marine display situated in the Palm house cellar was a very effective, even down to the temperature change, from hot rainforest, down to the cold sea.

Inside Palm House 5

We left the Palm house and headed towards the ‘Water lily’ house, passing the ‘island beds’ that were already planted out with Primula & Polyanthus.

On entering the ‘Water lily house’ we found that we were out of season for water lilies
but the staff had put on a display of Pumpkins & squashes for us to look at.

Water Lily House 1Water Lily House 2

From the Palm house we walked up the ‘Broad Walk’ with its many huge planters to the
‘Orangery’  &  ‘Fern house’ which were both closed for refurbishment,
so we proceeded to Kew Palace and its gardens.

Orangery
Kew PalaceKew Palace Gardens

We then headed East, passing through the secluded garden with its original water feature, which I photographed, but due to poor light levels it didn’t
come out as well as I would have liked.

The next port of call was the ‘Duke’s garden’ with its herbaceous borders and
Lavender collection.

From there we skirted the ‘Grass garden’ with its pampas grasses and headed towards
the ‘Aquatic garden’, which was passed its best but I did notice
a nice variety of pond weed in flower.

Aquatic Garden

Then it was on to the ‘Alpine house’, this is something I did like,
it was colourful yet so simple with its raised gravel beds.

Alpine House 1Alpine House 2

We left the Alpine house and entered the ‘Order beds’ with its Rose bedecked pergolas.
Alas, the colour was all but gone, a few roses here and there, but it must have been a lovely sight a couple of months ago.

So we carried on into the ‘Rock garden’ with its water cascade.
This was certainly nothing like my Rock garden, the rock outcrops were veritable cliffs.
 

Rock Garden

Then to one of the latest additions to the park, 'The Princess of Wales conservatory '
with its 10 different climates and relative plant life.

This was a very well laid out garden with its high & low level footpaths & gantries,
to give the public good views of the various groups of plant life.

Prince of Whales Conservatory 5Prince of Whales Conservatory 6Prince of Whales Conservatory 1
Prince of Whales Conservatory 2 Prince of Whales Conservatory 4

We then headed for home via the lake with its fountain and another view of the ‘Palm house’
and had a quick look in the ‘Visitors centre’.

Here there was the usual array of books, bulbs, seeds & souvenirs to be had.
 

Palm House 2

Finally, regarding the gardens as a whole, there was one thing we did appreciate when walking around, and that was the information that was available.

Too often I have visited gardens only to find that on seeing something of particular interest to me, there were no labels or people around to ask for details.

At Kew most of the major exhibits were named and each of the beds were numbered suggesting that by asking the staff, one might possibly
find a planting plan for each bed.

We were in the gardens for around five hours and only managed to get around
three of the four ‘ trails ’ and even then I don’t think we saw
all that there was to see in each area.

This is a garden to be visited many times and at various times of the year to be really appreciated, so I  guess my son will be getting regular visits
from his parents in future.

In conclusion, I hope this little tour has given you an idea of what is on offer at Kew.


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