Sunday, 24 July 2016

Kew Gardens

I had the most amazing day out today with some great friends as a belated birthday trip. We travelled up to Kew Gardens in London, which houses the most fantastic Victorian greenhouses, full to bursting with exotic plants. My goodness the heat and humidity in those great glass houses- quite incredible.

Possibly the most iconic greenhouse is the Palm House and it was the first one we came across in our wanderings. It was fascinating to see the trees and plants for things that we eat or use on a daily basis- raffia, wicker, vanilla, ginger, bananas, cocoa... You don't really think about where they come from or what it looks like originally. There were lots of plants in there too that had great medicinal properties, although I don't remember their names.

We were glad to escape the heat of the Palm house and wandered out into the open, the humid day suddenly seeming quite cool for a while in comparison. We meandered past the Pagoda and zenned through the zen garden (channelling inner energies and trying out meditative states of being). Elvis came out to see what all of the 'ooooming' and 'aaaahing' was about as we attempted levitation next to the carefully raked gravel.

We climbed the hundred or so steps up to the treetop walkway, which genuinely swayed quite a lot! It was a trifle worrying although great fun to be wandering around at the same height as the tops of these trees. Kew is right underneath the flight path for Heathrow so we were suddenly very close to the underbelly of some of these enormous planes coming in to land.

We stopped and had a picnic lunch in this very scenic spot next to the lake that is in the centre of the gardens. There were a couple of clutches of the sweetest fluffy ducklings, all paddling madly about in the water and cheeping loudly at each other.

We stopped to admire the red bricks of Kew Palace, although didn't go in. Instead we were drawn to a rather interesting looking ice cream stand which appeared to have dry ice floating from it. The ice cream was being made to order, with pick and mix flavours, using liquid nitrogen to freeze the ingredients. You could actually watch the milk, flavourings and nitrogen being added and slowly solidifying before your very eyes! It tasted delicious as well!! Mine was a combination of chocolate brownie, mint extract and dark chocolate- it tasted a bit like an After Eight chocolate.

We wandered down the Broad Walk which was a feast for the eyes with magical colours and floral textures on either side, alternating between hot oranges and pinks to cooler blues and purples and back again as you walked down it.

One of the installations at Kew is The Hive, a fantastic 17 metre high metal structure that has been designed to look, sound and smell like a hive would. There are lights inside that are linked to the vibrations in a real life hive and turn on when the sensors are triggered. There are speakers inside that give the droning and humming sound you would hear and it is just generally a very cool experience indeed.

In the Princess of Wales Conservatory we were having another hot flush with the humidity that the plants require to flourish. The colours inside were amazing, lush greens, hot pinks, electric blues, deep crimsons, soft pinks, sparkling yellows. Every colour was represented inside there. At times we really felt like rainforest explorers, pushing aside tendrils dripping from the ceiling, brushing past leaves about the same size as a trolley and stepping over squat little plants spilling onto the paths.

The Alpine House and gardens were very pretty, with lots of rockery space and waterfalls. It was very pleasant to hear the quiet roar of the water spilling over the rocks. There were more plants that I recognised here as ones we could grow in our own gardens.

The Waterlily House is definitely one of my favourites. It's incredible to think that those massive pads (that look like enormous pie dishes) are all part of one plant. When I was here last time it was actually flowering and the horticulturalists at Kew were filming the lily flowering as it was such a rare event. This time there were just the lilypads but there were other plants and things to see and admire, like the giant gourds hanging from the roof and the reflections in the specially dyed black water.
It was a most fantastic birthday day out, ended with a cream tea at the Kew Greenhouse Cafe (not part of Kew Gardens, it's a little cafe on the route back to the train station). I can't wait to revisit!

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