Kew Gardens

School half term holidays traditionally signal large gaps in the admittedly already pretty gappy posting schedule here at Fugitive Ink — and who are we to overturn tradition? In lieu of comment on the Coalition, the Queen’s Speech or even Stephen Games’ Pevsner: The Early Life, then, here is a photo from a recent excursion to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, if only to pass the time until normal posting resumes.

Kew, incidentally, is a marvellous place — that rare thing, an institution in receipt of substantial public funding which nevertheless appears to deserve every single penny spent on it. Not least, unlike most of our ‘public services’, it offers something for more or less everyone. The buildings, from Sir William Chambers’ elegant little follies (1760s) to Decimus Burton’s brilliant Palm House (1844-48, pictured above) to the strangely effective Princess of Wales Conservatory (1987), read like a lively survey of the past three centuries of English architecture. Although no great fan of most ‘environmental’ projects, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank scheme appeals to me enormously. Perhaps this is because it somehow comes across as an eighteenth century project — encyclopaedic, engaged with agrarian improvement, benignly imperial — as opposed to some sort of rite of nature-worship.

There’s exoticism to be enjoyed amongst the glasshouses, tranquility to be found in the parklike prospects, an education in the habits of herbs available in the neat little gardens behind Kew Palace, civilised strolls to be undertaken amongst the regular beds of roses. For those of faintly melancholy inclination, there’s a cycad that’s more or less the last of its line. In Chambers’ handsome Orangery, there’s not only respite from the sun, the possibility of very good coffee and walnut cake, but also heavy glasses with moulded flies perching on them — extremely enviable. There’s a nicely laid out shop selling everything from plants to books to gardening tools, although, alas, not those heavy glasses with the moulded flies perching on them. And then there’s an enormous pagoda, a Minka house, dozens of sweet-smelling lilacs, ideas for things to be done with herbaceous borders and wildflower lawns, beehives, a heron, art galleries, a playground, more plants than one could learn about in a lifetime and, well, quite a lot else besides.

Kew is, in other words, highly recommended, not least for those whose normal lives are on hold until school half term finishes. More serious posting will, one hopes, resume next week.



Filed under London, miscellaneous

6 responses to “Kew Gardens

  1. I’m now desperate to see a heavy glass with a moulded fly on it.

  2. And rightly so, Gareth. As my son put it, ‘this looks like the Holy Grail but with a fly on it’ — an accurate summation.

    Why didn’t I photograph this wondrous object? Because I was too busy eating cake and swilling coffee, presumably. Regrets? Not really, if only because this negligence provides me with yet another to return to Kew very soon — and next time I do want to see the inside of Kew Palace which, if it lives up to the promise of the unabashedly blush-coloured Rose of Jericho limewash which covers the outside, ought to be very exciting indeed.

  3. Is the Kew worth a visit in the Fall? I ask because it may come to pass.

  4. Yes, Franklin, I’m sure Kew’s well worth a visit in the autumn — and what’s more, I write that as someone who’s seen autumn in New England, and hence can imagine how high your standards must be!

    (Needless to say, if you’re in this neck of the woods you should also make time to call round on some of your favourite Soho-based bloggers, surely?)

  5. Most definitely. It’s one of the reasons to make the trip, in fact.

  6. Just think — you could meet the Fugitive Ink cats! (And, err, visit the National Gallery and look at some art and so forth, I guess …)

    Seriously, though — let me know how your plans develop.