Patterns of the Palm House

IMG_3839 1

Last week, on a rare dry day, I made my very first visit to Kew Gardens in London.  It is almost ridiculous that I have never visited before but living where I do it involves at least 6 hours on trains so you can understand why I have talked myself out of a visit time and again.  However, as I wanted to meet up with some horticultural friends who live in London and who I hadn’t seen for just over a year it seemed a good venue for a Christmas get together.

IMG_3734 1

The main attraction was the Palm House, which was particularly apt as I was with a group who are very into exotics and knowledgeable on the subject. However,  I found myself distracted completely by the structure of the Palm House with most of my photographs looking up beyond the foliage to the roof.  The Palm House was built between 1844 and 1848 by the architect Decimus Burton and the iron maker Richard Turner.  It was the first large scale structural use of wrought iron.  Sadly the Temperate House, which is even larger, is closed for restoration and will probably be shut until 2018 but I might get around to another visit by then!

IMG_3724 1

I loved the spiral staircases which take you to the top of the Palm House and on to a walkway from where you can look down on to the foliage.

IMG_3755 1

IMG_3753 1

You also get to see close up the detail of the building’s construction.

IMG_3750 1

I found the contrast of the lush tropical foliage with the hard and geometric structure fascinating, especially with the benefit of a beautiful blue sky in the background.

IMG_3746 1

IMG_3736 1

Just like the structure of the building many of the plants housed here have strong architectural shapes, such as this Dioon spinulosum (I think!).

We also visited the Alpine House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which I really enjoyed but is hard to photograph well unless you take plant close-ups which I didn’t as again I was distracted by the overall view.

All in all it was a lovely day out despite leaving home in the dark and a return journey completely in the dark.  Maybe a summer visit will allow a longer visit with the opportunity to explore the outside of the gardens more.  Maybe an overnight visit would be an even better idea, maybe to coincide with RHS Chelsea – I feel a plan forming!

 

 

Birmingham Botanical Garden Glasshouses

2014_01120030

I felt in need of some plant therapy this weekend.  I don’t feel as though I have had much horticultural time for the last few weeks particularly over the Christmas break when I was decorating.  Sunday’s forecast was cold and grey so a quick bit of research pointed me in the direction of Birmingham Botanical Garden and its glasshouses.

2014_01120016

I have never visited the gardens before and it is just under an hour’s drive so an easy outing.  You enter through the Tropical Glasshouse whose heat was very welcome after the 3C outside.  The lushness was strangely comforting and quite reviving.  The glasshouse was built in 1852 and is a Grade 1 listed building, its Victorian history positively exudes from its pores and I amused myself imagining Victorian ladies being awed by the exotic planting.2014_01120025I was also reminded of the importance of looking up when you are visiting any sort of garden as high up were various glamorous orchids. From the Tropical greenhouse you go through into the Sub-tropical greenhouse.

2014_01120032

After the exuberance of the Tropical glasshouse the Sub-tropical one was a little disappointing.  But signage quickly explained that the planting was being revisited over the Autumn and Winter and a diagram explained the future organisation of plants into shady dry, shady moist, sunny dry and sunny moist.  Saying this as I walked around the glasshouse there were parts which looked great, maybe they were the bits that had already done and if so then it wasnt at all obvious they were recently planted.

2014_01120040

I love the metal framework of the glasshouses, so beautiful.

From here you enter the Mediterranean glasshouse and here if you needed a wake up call you certainly got one with masses Coleus and Poinsettia all down one side.  I’m not a fan of Coleus particularly but I have to admit that, as you can see below, they certain give  value for money when grouped en mass.

2014_01120055

Finally I walked through into the Arid House.  I have been avoiding these since I had an asthma attack on entering the dry atmosphere of the arid house at Oxford Botanic Garden.  For some reason the environment in Birmingham’s Arid House was fine for me, maybe it’s because it’s a larger space but I enjoyed walking around here despite n0t particularly liking cactus.  I was fascinated by the various other non-cactus arids including Sand Lily, Acanthus sennii and Acacia.

2014_01120065

Despite the cold the glasshouses had warmed me up enough to have a wander around the gardens.  I was very impressed since they promise to be excellent as the year progresses including rock, alpine, fern and woodland gardens.  I liked the way the gardens were laid out, with many plants grouped according to the plant hunter who had discovered them, rather than by plant family.  I think I will try to go back again this year to see the gardens when the weather is kinder and it is more floriferous.

By the time I drove home the blue  sky had disappeared and the sky was becoming misty.  I drove back via Worcester and crossing the Severn River the scale of the current flooding was very apparent.  I don’t think I have seen the extent of flooding so great even in 2006 when we had severe summer flooding.  It was strange to think that no more than an hour before I  had been wandering amongst exotic climbers and palms – I have to say I felt much better and relaxed as a result