13 January 2013

A stroll though Kew Gardens in January

A brisk stroll through Kew Gardens was a pleasant way to leave behind the excesses of Christmas and to start the New Year with fresh air and exercise.

I chose Elizabeth Gate to start the journey and that is about as far as the plan went.

The gardens were as bleakly coloured as the sky as Winter showed its supremacy over the gardens.

I headed for the Secluded Garden for no other reason that it was along the path that I had chosen and I had not been there for a little while. I was rewarded with this cascade of catkins that reminded me that even in the midst of the bleakest Winters not all plants lie dormant.

In the centre of the Secluded Garden is a slate water feature. I've never seen it in action, nor am I sure that it actually has an action, but it looks fine without water flowing over it. From a distance you can see the intricate pattern of tiles and when you get close you can see their colours.

Marching on I passed many trees biding their time for Spring. This one looked the most forlorn with its bare branches looking to seek solace on the ground.

It is a bleak view but not a depressing one. Bleakness is just a feature of Winter and Winter is just one of the seasons that Kew Gardens moves through.

The seasons drive the changes to the gardens and those changes make it worth going back time after time.

Of course there are places in Kew that escape the seasons and those are the green houses. It is to one of those that I headed next as I also fancied being out of the cold wind for a while.

The Palm House is the senior of the three green houses because of its iconic curved shape. It also benefits from its location next to Victoria Gate, the main entrance, where sits proudly at the end of the large formal pond that, somehow, seems to have survived this long without acquiring a name.

Inside the Palm House even the tallest leafiest plants fail to hide the curvaceous structure that seems as natural as the things growing inside it.

Heading out of the Palm House and in to the heart of the garden it is almost impossible to avoid the lake, and I made no attempt to.

One of the nice things about the lake is that it is arranged as a figure of 8 with a bridge, the oddly named Sackler Crossing, which means there are different routes around and across it.

There are also two paths going around so you can choose to be close to the water or a little further back and a little higher up which changes the perspective. This combination of options, plus the changes that the seasons bring, mean that every exploration of the lake is something new and exciting.

The bleak day heightens the surprise of the colour on the island. There is just a faint touch of red and orange but this really stands out when everything else is the colour that Plasticine goes when you mix all of the strips together.

Deprived of their leaves the trees show a different side of their beauty.

I picked this one from many as I like the way that the branches are more or less like those on the trees that we learnt to draw as children except that they twist more and they suddenly burst in to balls as they get smaller.

Before long the new leaves will hide all the complexity.

Seeing trees like this helps to identify their similarities and differences, and this variety is one of the real strengths of Kew Gardens. The two trees included here are very different and these are just a very small sample of what trees can do with their branches.

The last port of call was, not unexpectedly, the cafe by Victoria Gate, this time justified by the cold as much as the wish to give the gardens a further financial contribution.

I'm guessing, but I suspect that I walked a leisurely 5km in an hour and a half. OK, so it was not much of a guess as I was using my iPhone to track my walk (always a fun thing to do at Kew).

My first thought on leaving the gardens was to think about the parts that I had left out this time and so were immediately on the top of the list of places to go next time, safe in the knowledge that the next time would be soon.

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