Friday, September 18, 2015

Trip Report -- London Kew Gardens (1 of 3)

Kew Gardens surely is one of the most famous botanic gardens in the world.

The gardens live up to their sterling reputation. In particular, I was impressed by the holly collection, which included specimens I'd never seen anywhere else, such as Farges's holly (Ilex fargesii subsp. fargesii).

Ilex fargesii subsp. fargesii
Ilex fargesii subsp. fargesii

Close-up on the marvelous berries clustered around the stems of Ilex fargesii subsp. fargesii

Honestly, the only thing that detracts from the experience is the fact that Kew is right under the path that airplanes take on their way to nearby Heathrow airport. Since Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, that means that planes thunder close overhead constantly. It's a shame, because it shatters the peace of what would otherwise be a bucolic setting.

Noise pollution aside, Kew contains marvelous horticultural treasures. Here are some of my favorites. (Because there are so many photos, I'm splitting up this Trip Report into 3 batches, just as I did with the Giverny posts...)

You see healthy hedges of Aucuba japonica (Japanese aucuba) throughout London, but this specimen at Kew Gardens looked particularly lush and impressive.

Eurasian magpie, not only beautiful, but reportedly also very intelligent.

An herbaceous bed bursting with flowers and colors - how exuberant!

It's quite hard to see (like a "Where's Waldo?" book), but if you look closely, you may be able to spot some of the bees (lower left portion of this photo) that were buzzing about this Bupleurum frutescens subsp spinosum (apparently, the common name is "spiny hare's ears")

Another Bupleurum - easier to spot the bee on this one (Bupleurum fruticosum)

Kew has a Treetop Walkway - an elevated walkway among the treetops - that sounded really exciting, but was actually sort of underwhelming and scary at the same time. Underwhelming, because the canopy walk mostly was surrounded by the same sort of trees (chestnuts). I would have preferred to see different sorts of trees up close. Scary, because the flooring material was a see-through metal mesh that seemed to be one step up from chicken wire. It flexed and made banging sounds as people walked over it. Yikes. We hurried gingerly through the canopy and then I took a glass elevator down (fun!) while my wife opted for the stairs.

Speaking of chestnuts, here is a sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) loaded with seeds.

Chasmanthium latifolium (northern sea oats
Rosa tomentosa (downy rose) -- look at those hips!

Echinopsis huascha, a cactus from Argentina. This one was growing indoors in a desert greenhouse.

The spines are no joke on the rose cactus (Pereskia grandifolia)

Yucca queretaroensis (Queretaro yucca)

What else caught my eye at Kew? Find out with a free email subscription to Garden of Aaron.