Kew Gardens on a sunny Saturday
I'd been meaning to make a trip to Kew Gardens for a long time but somehow never managed to find a good opportunity. Some of our old university friends came to stay a couple of weekends ago and finally we had an excuse to make the journey from South East London westwards to visit the famous hot houses and expansive gardens that I'd heard so many good things about. Our trip coincided with a rare afternoon of warm late winter sunshine which made the visit all the sweeter, although presented some challenges in the photo-taking department!
It might not seem like the most obvious choice of destination for a winter's trip, but actually it turned out to be an excellent time to go. The palm house was quiet and peaceful, and a wonderfully warm place to wander for an hour or so, reading all about the various tropical plants and their uses, and remembering the feeling of warmth on your skin. And the gardens were still and atmospheric, bare and stark, chilly as the late afternoon started to set in, but punctuated by bright flashes of sunlight on the river in the distance, and signs of new Spring growth emerging. Here and there we were lucky enough to see little clumps of snowdrops huddled in the shade of trees, clothing the ground in a soft white blanket.
We spent most of our time in the Palm House which is a truly breathtaking space with its huge glass windows reaching up to the sky, its intricate Victorian ironwork, pleasingly rusted and shabby, and its warm, musty smell of plants and soil. The iron balcony accessed by a beautiful spiral staircase allows you to get a proper idea of the impressive scale of the palms, and through the misty panes of glass, you can also spy a little of West London stretching out into the distance. It also houses a petite but rather lovely aquarium downstairs, and is home to one of the world’s oldest pot plants, a cycad dating from 1775!
The sheer variation of shades of green, the shapes and textures of the leaves and fruit, the play of light and shadows, the sparkle of condensation droplets, and the moody beauty of the sun filtering through the windows made for a truly magical atmosphere. There really is something so special about glasshouses!
We are planning a return trip as the weather gets warmer as some of the other greenhouses were closed for maintenance when we visited. The gardens would also make the most wonderful setting for a spring or summer picnic. I also feel inspired to search out more glasshouses around London - let me know if you have any recommendations!