While spending a few days with a friend in London we had a rare dry day this summer and decided to explore Kew Gardens which is close to their flat. The last couple of times we have been here was for musical events in the evening. Our last daytime visit was in 2016. Entering via the Elizabeth Gate as soon as it opened, one of the first trees we came to was an Indian Horse Chestnut which had some seeds beginning to appear.
Further on was a tall Weeping Silver Lime: James standing beside it gives an idea of how tall it was.
Just past this were some agapanthus which were almost finished flowering. This one had a bee finding some nectar.
We then came upon Kew Palace. It was the royal retreat of George III and Queen Charlotte: royal occupation lasted from 1728 until 1818, with another short spell in 1844. The house opens an hour later than the main garden.
Walking on towards the woodland I noticed a sign near the entrance to a badger sett which that said there were twenty setts in the gardens. We passed some Canada Geese on the grass.
Later on, one sitting on the path was not at all bothered by us being close by.
There were several very large old trees including this Atlas Cedar
and Sweet Chestnut.
On our way to the Bamboo Garden and the lake we passed a large section of rhododendrons. A notice next to this Rhododendron ponticum (the common rhododendron) said that it has been found by some scientists to be toxic to honey bees and a wild mining bee species. This plant is an invasive species and is probably contributing to the declining bee populations.
White mulberry is native to central China but is cultivated worldwide for the silk industry. The Romans first introduced them into the UK. It is a fast-growing short-lived tree which is grown to feed to silkworms in silk production.
Minka House is a 100 year old farmhouse that once stood in the city of Okazaki in Japan. The Yonezu family used it as their home after their original house had been bombed during the Second World War. It was donated to Kew and reconstructed here as a centerpiece of the 2001 Japan Festival in the UK.
The Bamboo Garden is close by.
In my last garden the only bamboo that was not invasive and stayed where it had been planted was a Phyllostachys nigra variant. The Lake had a swan family and a pair of coots with their two chicks and a gull snoozing on a rock on the lakeside.
On the banks were some colourful salvias.
Just across the lake bridge is a sculpture:
The Wander Project has involved five inspiring leaders to contribute to new trails through the gardens: wanderers, adventurers, dreamers, protectors and time travellers. Heading on we passed an avenue of trees
and then walked down the Broad Avenue which is lined with plants.
The Pagoda Tree was planted in 1760 and once stood 15m tall. Now only the lowermost branch survives with supports.
On a slight hillock is The Hive. It is an installation created to emphasise the importance of pollinators and is illuminated by almost 1,000 flickering LED lights in synch with orchestral music pulsating in time to vibrations produced by bees humming which were recorded in Kew beehives.
It is surrounded by a meadow.
After that we saw a sculpture on the lawn: ‘A maxima ad minima – from the greatest to the least’ by Eduardo Paolozzi.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory has sections for succulents and cacti
with a wonderful one in flower.
There are then moist sections for tropical rainforest plants
including large water lilies
and an arid plant section.
The Palm House is situated near a pond
Passing the Temple of Bellona which was built in 1760
we reached the Shirley Sherwood Gallery to see an exhibition.
Kew Gardens was once the site of the first mosque built on British soil in the 1760s. It was designed by William Chambers and was not intended for worship. He often built structures inspired by his travels. The exhibition ‘Plants of the Qur’ān’ is the culmination of a research project between Kew scientist Dr Shahina Ghazanfar and botanical artist Sue Wickison. There are many detailed watercolour paintings and then it ends in a very colourful room.
By the time we came out the gardens were getting very busy so we decided it was time to leave