Friday, May 23, 2008

Write on Kew

My parents are in town for a visit right now, which means we get to play both tour guide and tourist at the same time. Not that we ever stop exploring London and surrounds, but when friends and relatives visit it gives us incentive to do things that we would otherwise never seem to find time to do. Despite the fact that there was an extensive and well-reviewed exhibit of Henry Moore statues at Kew Gardens up until quite recently, and we had talked numerous times about going out to visit both the gardens and the exhibit, we were completely lazy and never went (Kew is just 45 minutes away on the tube, so we have no good excuse). But now that my folks are visiting, we finally got off our keisters and went Kew.

The Palm House Pond

I had been out to Kew once before by myself last April half for work and half for play. I spent a few hours wandering around enjoying the scenery and strolling through some of the glasshouses, but I only saw a fraction of what there is to see at Kew. Unlike botanical gardens most other places in the world, where space is typically a premium and gardeners try to squeeze in 700 plants per meter, Kew is more park than garden with massive lawns and long walks between the various attractions.

The Pagoda, one of the oldest structures at Kew

As a botanical enthusiast, you might think that I would say that my favorite thing at Kew is something incredibly nerdy and arcane like the giant flowering Amorphophallus titanum with flowers taller than me, the endangered Marattia ascensionis from the isolated Atlantic outpost of Ascension Island, or some of the spectacular orchids. But, to be honest, my favorite aspect of Kew is the architecture and landscaping design. The glasshouses at Kew are truly magnificent works of art - I paid more attention to the buildings than to the plants themselves (okay, so I snuck a peek at the Marattia, so sue me). The Palm house and the Temperate House are so large that they have catwalks around the upper reaches of the building, so you can look down on the crowns of tree ferns and see into the upper canopies of the giant palms.

Inside the Palm House

My parents on top of the world in the Temperate House

The new Xstrata treetop walkway, which was set to open this month, was not open to the public yet when we were there (it is now, however - just our luck). We could only stare longingly at it from a distance, wishing we were up there being scared. Compared my experience in Malaysia on a canopy walkway made of aluminum ladders tied together, this would have been easy, but it still looked fun. We were a bit less enticed by the companion attraction, the underground "Rhizotron", which is presumably planning to expose visitors to the exciting and fascinating world of roots. I'll come back for the canopy walkway, but I might skip the root experience.

The true highlight of the day: the squashed penny machine.
I got to squash the Queen!


Jordan said...

Actually, the incredibly nerdy botanical enthusiast would point out that Amorphophallus titanum has an inflorescence that is taller than you, while the individual flowers are minute. :) Was it actually in bloom when you were there? I've never seen one in person...

Andy M. said...

Okay, okay, Mr. Technicality. You're of course right, it is an inflorescence. It was in flower but just starting to wilt when we were there. Last year I saw it in full bloom. I'll put up pictures of both the spathe and the spadex for your viewing pleasure on Flickr soon.

Particle Girl said...

I know those penny-squashing machines are a fraud. There's no way you'd be permitted to squash HRH. They're just making 51 cents off you. Think of the profits.