Arty journeys...


Sunday, 31 December 2017

Kew Gardens yesterday with my cousin

My cousin Helen knows Kew Gardens very well. In 2017 she has visited 36 times! (I wonder how many times she has visited altogether.) I've only been there a few times as a child and once about 25 years ago with fellow art foundation students.

I thoroughly enjoy seeing Kew through Helen's eyes in her photos (which she posts in her blog Photos by H) but yesterday I went with her and had a brilliant time seeing it all with my own eyes. (Great company too - it would be lovely to see each other more often.)

We arrived before the gates opened.

Helen was very patient with my slow pace - (partly physical and partly caused by me taking so many photos).

These fluffy seedheads aren't easy to photograph, specially as the wind was quite blustery and nothing would stay still.

First view of the Hive - a 17 metre high installation by Woolfgang Butress. It's a different shape from different angles and seems to break up and evaporate into the air at the edges.

There are Christmas decorations dotted around the place - it would be lovely to see these lit up at night.

The sun made a short appearance and lit up the "flowers" making them shimmer.

Golden grasses.

The sky kept changing as the wind whisked the clouds along. Fabulous trees.

Helen photographing the fountain. 

Looking in a different direction - the Princess of Wales glasshouse. 

The contrast of the green and red stems. 

Plumes of water were being blown about - constantly changing direction and creating lovely patterns in the rippled water. Helen often catches brilliant photos of the fountain sparking in the sun and reflections in the water on her trips when there is calmer weather. It was fairly wild and windy yesterday.

In the Princess of Wales glasshouse - strange cacti

The biggest Christmas Cactus I've ever seen.

Amazing plants soaring above our heads and trailing up to the roof.

This is one of the smaller fish in the water in the glasshouse. There are some really long fish in there too with patterns along their sides - and piranhas (not sure if this one might be a piranha.)

There are zones in the glasshouse - some are very steamy and the camera lens kept misting up.

A wonderful cascade of orange flowers

Many plants that are familiar to me as houseplants - but not on this enormous scale.

Exotic flowers - amazingly bright colours.

Helen was just telling me how she sometimes sees the Chinese Water Dragons that live in there but not often, when she turned the corner and this beautiful creature was sitting on the steps. I was really excited to see one. What a wonderful colour and so brave - it didn't seem to mind people being quite close - it only moved over a little bit while we walked slowly and carefully down beside it. .

Amazing creature. 

It has a very long tail which it spread across the steps. I was very aware of being a privileged visitor in its territory.

More flowers 

and interesting leaves

Curtains of fluffy fronds

Leaf patterns are amazing! 

So many interesting shapes and colour schemes.

Many smaller plants were growing on big tree trunks.

Delicate little creamy white flowers

Wonderful frilly edges on these gorgeous flowers.

Big orange trumpets

I hardly knew where to look - afraid of missing something.

Mor leafy patterns.

Huge clusters of tiny delicate flowers.

Pretty pink

Grasses glittering in the sun. 

Fabulous prairie planting. 

We are possibly in the alpine house now. 


Seeds (possibly ash seeds) 

The Hive - looking up from underneath. A child walked onto the window above our heads and was joined by an adult

There are about 1,000 LED lights on the structure which connect to one of Kew's beehives. The lights and sounds that you can hear inside the Hive are triggered by the activity in a real beehive. (You can find out more about it here)

Gunnera seed heads.  The leaves have all died back or been cut down. 

The fountain from the other side. 

Chimonanthus praecox grandiflorus. I was glad to see a label. They have highly fragrant bowl shaped, many petalled, waxy, yellow, winter flowers with marroon centres.

We stopped for a rest. Helen had coffee and a sausage roll and I had the nicest blueberry muffin and hot chocolate drink I've ever had.

Moss and lichen on an old tree branch. 

Path lined with parcel decorations. (These probably light up at night.)

We took several short cuts, winding our way across muddy grass and avoiding low hanging branches.

We made our way to the Marianne North Gallery where we saw the installation Life in Death by Rebecca Louise Law. I have enjoyed seeing Helen's photos of this on her previous visits but wasn't prepared for the magical experience of walking through the 1,000 hanging garlands of dried flowers, saved over a decade and strung on copper wire.

The room is filled with threads of flowers and grasses etc. of different colours and textures. There is a wandering pathway between areas of different colours - a cluster of yellows in one area, another of pinks, another of blues etc.

Tufty grasses and tiny flowers 

Looking back through the way we had come. 

Having left the installation we had a very quick look in the Marianne North gallery. Marianne North was a Victorian plant hunter and painter whose paintings are all in natural settings unlike botanical artists of the time who painted specimens in isolation against a white background. In the gallery 
833 of her paintings cover the walls. 

Heading back to the entrance past various plant paintings and objects in glass cabinets there were a couple open doorways into the intallation room where you can get different views. 

The massive Temperate House is coming to the end of a five year restoration project and is reopening in 2018.

We headed to the Treetop Walkway. Unfortunately the lift was closed. I was determined to manage the 118 steps. (No, I didn't count them - I found out on the Kew website). It is "designed to flex slightly in high winds" - actually in places it felt like we were on a boat! I'm not keen on heights but this had chest height railings all round the 200 metre long walkway and I felt quite safe in spite of it "flexing slightly" in the wind. Great views from up there 18 metres above the ground.

View from the walkway. 

The Temperate House - from the walkway.

The spiraling steps.

Looking up from below. 

Tree with giant baubles. 

Helen and me (with cameras) reflected in a giant bauble

We stood on a little bridge deciding which way to go next. A fluffy white feather and a little leaf were being tossed about on the dark rippling water - but neither seemed to be getting wet.

Some of the Christmas decorations that are scattered around the grounds.

More giant baubles hanging in a tree. 

Another view of two happy photographers. 

A normal sized bauble on a garland attached to a fence with a slightly confused bee on it.

Another normal sized bauble  - my playing continued.

Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Plane tree and blue sky. 

More clouds soon blew in. I love the silhouettes of bare trees against the moody sky.

Palm House built in 1844 and recognised as the world's most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure. 

Towering palms, climbers and shorter plants fill every space. Many are endangered species or even extinct in the wild. 

We climbed the spiral staircase to the upper walkway. (I was desperate not to miss anything and was pushing myself further than was probably sensible!) Many plants reached up to the lower level roof

This building is in need of restoration too. 

Fabulous ironwork. 

Dripping roof - I didn't really manage to catch a good photo of the glistening water droplets.

Lovely spiral staircase. 

Leaving the palm house having completely run out of steam we made our way back to the entrance. I have to mention the planes. Kew is under the flightpath and there's a stream of low flying aircraft (which I found quite exciting - wouldn't if I lived under such a low flightpath!)

I had such a fabulous time at Kew with Helen. I'm incredibly stiff today but it was SO worth it! 

Thank you very much for joining me.