16 February 2014

Orchids 2014: A plant hunter's paradise at Kew Gardens

The annual orchids event at Kew Gardens is a must-see event for season ticket holders and an attractive one for lots of other people.

It's popularity means that the Princess of Wales Conservatory is always full and just walking around it is difficult. Hence my cunning plan of being at Victoria Gate just before it opened at 9:30 on a fresh Sunday morning.

The plan worked well. There were only about twenty of us in the queue and not all of them headed straight for the orchids, though most did. A couple of couples got there before me so it was all but empty when I arrived with my camera ready to take pictures without other people in them.

I had not reckoned on the enthusiasm of plant lovers and while I got a little bit of quiet time in the conservatory it filled up quite quickly and within fifteen minutes the buggies and small children started to arrive bringing noise and chaos with them.

I like small children being noisy and chaotic (that is what they are for) but I am less appreciative of this when I am trying to relax and enjoy the flowers.

This was my fifth consecutive visit to the Kew Orchids. That it was five came as a surprise to me but one of the things that I use this blog for is to keep track of things like that and it assures me that I first went in 2010 which is before I became a member.

On my fifth visit I finally found out what an orchid is, which just goes to show what you can learn if you stop and read the helpful notices that Kew put up. I now know that orchids have three petals and sepals and the lowest petal is modified to allow pollinating insects to land on it.

Even when the orchids are not on display the pond in the centre of the conservatory is the most spectacular setting and is where most people congregate, especially the small one who like looking at the big fish in it. This day was no exception.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory is not that big, though it is made bigger by its complex design of multiple zones and myriad walkways between and through them, and a normal visit there probably takes a quarter of an hour or so. Thanks to the orchids it took me an hour or more to see all that I wanted to see before the tiredness and growing crowds forced me out to seek a cup of coffee. Luckily the Orangery was close by.

There is every chance that I'll be back to see the orchids again next year.

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