Travel blog by a global nomad

16 Jun

A sprint through Kew Gardens

Daisy and buttercups, Kew Gardens, London, UKTo try and do Kew Gardens in 2.5 hours is a mistake – or so I discovered today… I wanted to do it in more time, but things occupied me for the morning, and I wasn’t aware that it was practically at the end of the District line, so I ended up getting there about 4pm. I must admit, I was positively running by then – and very hopeful that Kew Gardens was open later, like 6 or 7pm because of the long summer evenings. I was rewarded with a compromise – they closed at 6.30pm….

Apart from the flowers, there were a number of things I wanted to accomplish here – see the Marianne North display of paintings, there was supposed to be a photo exhibition and I wanted to play with my new Nikon D200 and macro lens to see how well it dealt with reproducing flower colour (the Pentax and Canon having great macro on their digital instamatics, but a bit dodgy on pink and blue/purple reproduction!). So having been stunned by the entry fee (11 pounds – that would be $AUS28/$CAN23/$US20 – pretty steep for entry into some gardens, even if nice gardens!), I paused briefly in the entrance and noted that the galleries and glasshouses all closed at 5.30pm – yikes, 1.5 hours! I knew it was going to be a major dash…

I glanced at my map (fortunately part of the entry fee…) and located the Marianne North exhibit off to the left, and starting powering down there. I clearly wasn’t going to get to sit around and enjoy the gardens like the many small clusters of mothers picnicing with toddlers and babies or the elderly couples strolling around, hand in hand… Blazing a trail past 2 tourists, I hared off down a bitumen path, briefly taking in the broad grassy plains and towering trees. Kew Gardens in the western side, seemed to be full of quite open yet quite shaded. As I headed further southwards, the planes coming into Heathrow grew in noise. I had briefly entertained ideas about moving into this area next year, but with planes flying overhead every 90-100 seconds, maybe I’d rethink that!

I found the Marianne North exhibit in 5 minutes and powered in. Her paintings were more vibrant than the one’s I saw in a talk given by Hannah Lawson on the Polar Star (admitedly, my inspiration for seeing Ms North’s work…). I didn’t do the display justice, almost jogging around, which was hard as the most amazing colourful paintings climbed from thigh high to the ceiling from all over the world. It may have been the 1800s, but this lady travelled and managed to spend enough time to paint all these amazing pictures! My ultimate goal was to see the Puzzle Trees of Chile – as that had apparently always been her goal… It turned out that I came in and turned right (Australia) and managed to cruise the entire world before coming across the one soul picture of a puzzle tree – right next to the exit…. I’ll have to return and spend more time looking at these pictures.

By now time was ticking and I wanted to make sure I saw the other things so I quickly eliminated glasshouses as I figured they would always look the same, even in winter, so I could return in winter!

I blazed off towards the Pagoda, did half a circle then snaked through the supposedly heavily orange-blossum scented Philadelphus collection – but must have come to late as I couldn’t detect any orange blossum scent (and I LOVE the scent of orange blossums… Seville in March… One of those things everyone must do once in their lives!). I then paused in my trails to take some pictures of daisy’s and buttercups – they reminded me of my youth… I hoped to find a fairy ring (circle of dark grass) but alas…

Red rose, Kew Gardens, London, UKI rapidly meandered through the SW part of the gardens, but it was mainly grass and trees. The Waterlily pond was looking more algae-ridden today, and I quickly snapped a lady feeding ducks at the western lake. I was beginning to wonder where the photo display was and thought I better get back to the northern part of the garden as that was where many houses etc seemed to be…. I sprinted down through the Palm House, pausing for about 5 minutes to take some pictures of the vibrant roses in the rose garden (I think I was near the end of the season – many were starting to die…) before literally cutting through the hugely impressive towering Plam House greenhouse. I emerged near a large half-oval pond with a manor at the eastern end. I circled round, admiting the tall cement statues of mythical creatures and the carefully tended colourful flower beds. I stuck my head into the Manor where a promsing display entitled “Plants and People exhibition” but it was very dark inside and seemed to be more about art created from plant products. I wondered if it was even open given how dark it was, despite the sign outside. I didn’t have my watch with me, but decided it must be getting close to 5.30pm… It was do or die – continue trying to find this photographic exhibition or see the flowering giant lilies. The lilies won…

The blurb in the map/pamphlet seemed to indicate at a cursory glance that the lilies were in the Prince of Wales Conservatory, so I hared off in that direction, but as I dashed through, wishing I could spend more time admiring the cactus gardens in there and explore the various tropical regimes, I didn’t see the lilies. I popped out the otherside, deeply puzzled and very worried about time. I reread the pamphlet closely and realised they giant lilies were in the Waterlily House near the Palm House. Doh! I had been right there! So I quickly powered off in that direction, overtaking many strolling, pram-pushing mothers…

I raced into the waterlily house and saw about 10 gigantic waterlilies, all more than a metre in diameter and a few white and purple flowers. I took it in, slowing down for the first time (aprt from when I took pictures of the daisy’s and buttercups…). And as soon as I raised my camera, some guy came in and started trying to get me out. He wanted to close up! It was 5.30pm…

Kicked out, I went back to the Victoria Gate visitor centre to do the tourist thing in the shop before it closed at 6pm. I pleased to say I bought nothing… (I’ll be back!). Then with just over half an hour to kill, I decided to dash over to the western side again and see the rhododendron dell… I love rhododendron from my photo’s last year in Russia. Sadly, I had defintely missed the peak of these flowers! But I was still impressed with the trees – after all, the rhodendron in Arctic Russia is only about 20cm high, but here the bushes towered over me by several meters… But the blossums were all in their final death throes. I wandered around the dell, but only found one bush away from the dell still in its prime. I took some pictures of these rhodendrons, bemused that the flowers were smaller than their Russian counterparts – more energy side-tracked into growing the tree than in Russia?! but still just as pretty…

And then it was fast closing on 6.30pm – time to leave. Besides, I was getting hungry. I can’t believe how quickly that 2 1/2 hours went!

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