11 March 2012

Kew Tropical Extravaganza 2012

The Tropical Extravaganza is, justifiably, one of the highlights of the year at Kew.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory becomes a colourful wonderland as the orchids take over aided and abetted by some exotic decorations.

The ponds are one of the main features of the conservatory and while most attention is paid to the largest pond one of the smaller ones has become the setting for a model village and assorted wildlife.

I suspect that these models, like the large yellow mushrooms on display elsewhere, are really there to entertain the many small children taken there by their enthusiastic parents but there is no reason for the grown-ups not to appreciate them too.

But the orchids are the real stars of the show.

They come in a bewildering number of colours, shapes and sizes.

Every step you take reveals another flower that demands that you pause and take its picture. The air is literally thick with the click of digital cameras (why do people not switch the sound off?).

I did what I was told and took a photo about seventy times in an hour!

It was not part of any great plan but I found that my pictures had three styles of composition, the close-up of just one or two flowers, a slightly wider shot that included some of the leaves and wider still where I tried to capture the impression that such a density of colour makes on the conservatory.

This is rather unlike me as I tend to avoid the simple close-up as a) they are simple, b) everybody else does them and c) there is nothing about them that tells you that they were taken in Kew.


So enjoy these close-ups while you can as I might not be taking any more.If close-ups are what you like them the Kew Gardens Flickr page is full of them.

This is more like me.

I love the nicely shaped leaves almost as much as the flowers so it is only right that they should get equal billing.

Green is, after all, the dominant colour at Kew and it deserves to be celebrated.

I've also picked this example because the flower is purple and the previous two were pink and yellow.


And there are lots of other colours to choose from.

Returning to the large pond we see the centrepiece of the exhibition.

A helix of flower boxes climbs out of the pond with each layer crammed with pretty flowers.

The effect is almost overwhelming, but then it's meant to be.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory is like a small boy's dream home with lots of hidden spaces linked by a maze of paths and steps. This creates a wealth of different zones with distinctive climates and vegetation. That makes it an ideal place to stage a horticultural exhibition as each corner turned reveals something new. Something surprising.


The Tropical Extravaganza is vibrant, joyous and a veritable feast for the eyes. Do I really have to wait a year before I can do again?

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