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The Kew is Kewl! (Part 1)

Today I attempted Kew Gardens… and though the weather is a bit overcast and foggy – I’ve got to say that it was definitely worth the trip!

The next to last stop on the Richmond line (or you can take the overground) – the garden is a short walk from the train station in an adorable little center of shops and cafes. One of my favorites:

After browsing a bit, I made my way down a residential street towards the Gardens’ Victoria Gate entrance. Cool thing: the entire street was lined predominantly with London Planes – all of which were pollarded! In fact, about 2/3 the way down the street, there was a tree company cutting one Plane that looked like it had been allowed to grow unabated this year.  Surprisingly, the front yards in many of the houses were pretty simply planted… you would think that there would be some competition to have the best-looking front yard with such proximity to the garden!

Upon entering the Gardens, I made a beeline to the Palm House, which was to close at 2pm that day. Apparently, they’ve found an invasive bug in the conservatory and spend the afternoon cutting back affected plants. Now, having been in the greenhouse, I can completely appreciate the amount of work this would entail!

The conservatory is literally 2-stories; you can ascend to a catwalk via circular staircase on either end of the main room… which offers an amazing overhead view of plants that are literally stories tall!

The Palm House

One of my favorite plants was a cycad that Kew believes to be “the oldest potted plant” in England… it was brought to the Gardens just as it was being established – more than 200 years ago! – and has remained in the Palm House ever since. Here it is:

As much as you can not appreciate the English penchant for grabbing antiquities etc. to bring back to Britain – you have to kind of admire how rich their collections are!

From there, I visited the Water Lily conservatory – in which they feature a huge assortment of water lilies, including the Giant waterlilies (Victoria amazonica) – a variation on the immense water lilies found in Brazil, but were bred to “fit” the pond here, in honor of Queen Victoria.  You can see them here:

Moving on, I headed towards the western end of the Gardens via Holly Walk – which used to be the main thoroughfare for residents moving between central London and Richmond. Now, it’s home to more than 60 varieties of holly – truly spectacular!

Tucked just north of Holly Walk is one of Kews’ most progressive installations: The Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway!  Offering an elevated view of the Gardens about 3 stories above the ground, you’re eye level with the tree canopy of several varieties of chestnut trees, etc. What was kind of cool is that I’ve never really seen chestnut fruit clusters from this angle; the “fruit” that had opened and expelled their seed looked like white flowers to me at first – but upon closer inspection I realized that I was simply looking at the inside of the pericarp!

The elevated walkway

More to come with Part II….


Sloane Gardens

This is actually a bit of a misnomer now; Sloane Gardens is actually a fabulous neighborhood in central London – not too far from Chelsea Physick Gardens… and let me tell you:  These people know how to incorporate floral design!

Window boxes, step containers, climbing vines… really beautiful at this time of the year. My favorite? A building with a terrace that runs across the length of the front of the building – completely covered with cascades of ivy, topped by decorative kale and delphiniums. I have to tell you – I can kill a delphinium just by looking at it… so you can imagine how envious I am that they seem to thrive here!

Happiness in Hempstead

Today, my friend Jennifer married her longtime love in an open-air ceremony set in Hempstead Heath. I can see why this is one of their favorite places to walk and spend time together!

The sun is actually out today – no overcast, misty morning here! – and the trees and ivies are all a-blaze. As well, many homes have blooming fuschia bushes, hollies, and a few other blooming plants that I don’t recognize.

The best part: Following the ceremony, we all walked through the Heath to the reception (held in a deconsecrated church) – and as soon as we were inside, the skies literally opened up!  But the rain finally abated as we all went home… what a treat this weather has been!

What’s in bloom

Today at the Garden, I noticed that the Cornus kousa across the street from the Watson building is in bloom!

Watson kousa in autumnal bloom!

What was more strange was that the kousa at the corner of the building is beginning to turn – and is laden with fruit!

Cornus kousa

Elsewhere on the property, I noticed that the Cornus florida is also full of berries – though not nearly as delicious as those of the kousa!

Cornus florida

I wonder if this last-ditch attempt to produce fruit has any indication of a hard winter to come… and how long it’s going to take the birds and squirrels to eat everything?

Fall colors

Today was the first day that I noticed that the sumac is turning its blazing scarlet… a plant that I considered a weed where I grew up, I’ve come to appreciate how tenacious it can be!

Meanwhile, the leaves are very close to “peak” – the Palisades are a riot of color, with about 1/3 of the deciduous trees yet to turn. I bet they’re going to be beautiful next week!

Great Quote

“A penny for the plant – but a pound for the preparation.”

I believe this is attributed to Colen Campbell, who designed Stourhead in the U.K… and as I sit here, bent over the treepit in front of my apartment, it seems completely apt!

After taking the Tree Pits class at NYBG, I learned that I had planted ours in a way that was not healthy for the tree: I placed an 18″ raised bed around the trunk of the tree and filled in soil up to the trunk. While it was great for the daffodil bulbs I planted, I learned that I could be damaging the tree itself… so I bought a hardier raised bed – and then filled it in IN REVERSE.

Now, there’s a ring of soil around the exterior of the pit, with the soil line once more aligning with the tree trunk’s flare. Today, I planted it with bright yellow chrysanthemums – and the literally brighten the entire block!

My reconstructed tree pit!

An interesting thing, though – I’ve come to appreciate how hardy gingkos are:  My tree had shot out roots from the soil-covered trunk, 6″ above the flare!  Just goes to show you… nature takes care of its own!

Rompin’ with Ruggerio

I love Friday mornings; I have Mike Ruggerio’s Woody Ornamentals class, which requires us to walk the NY Botanical Gardens with our Trees book and hone our skills with identifying the Garden’s trees and shrubs by using the guide.

Mike is a font of information that offers quite a few shortcuts – things to look for that might be exclusive to a particular plant/tree.  For example, if the leaf is not symmetrical, it’s an elm. If there are multiple buds at the end of a branch, it’s an oak, etc.


This week, Mike harvested a very large white button mushroom that was growing on the lawn on the way to the azalea garden – it was literally as big as my head!  He ended up cutting it up and letting us taste it… who knew that it had some great nutritional value?

It’s too bad this class is only two hours long!

What’s in bloom

It’s a bit overcast today, but I’m just starting to see that some of the fall foliage is settling in… what I like most about overcast days is that trees in full fall color almost seem to GLOW.

And here’s a tip:  Did you know that fall leaves will retain their color if you iron them between two sheets of newspaper? I always thought it had to be waxed paper… so I’ll have to keep this in mind as I continue to collect items for my pressing collection!

What’s in bloom

You don’t see many of them in NYC – but I just discovered that there is a female gingko growing on West End Avenue between 82nd & 83rd! (Gee, I wonder if my male gingko is helping to fertilize? Can windblown pollen make it around corners?)

Gingkos are actually a real problem throughout most of Philadelphia; I remember walking down Spruce, Locust, and Pine Streets in particular – and having the sidewalks and streets literally covered with the smelly fruit. Makes you wonder whose job it was to select the trees when they were planting!

What’s in bloom

After a quick walk around my neighborhood (UWS), today I noticed that the first red maple leaves have arrived! I hope this is an indication of a great fall foliage season…!

Meanwhile, I’m noticing that the mums I planted in my window boxes are now full blown… russet and orange, offset by cascading ivy. I can’t wait to add my Halloween items!