Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 18.02.13

Gloria was decidedly pensive in the car last night. We arrived at our lodgings in time for a late supper before the matter was aired. We had seen some lovely gardens, some delightful plants but there had been no real drama. We agreed that our visit to Kew should be an adventure to stir the soul.

I was particularly keen to visit the Temperate House. The latest restoration is underway and I was curious to see how things were progressing. Many of the elderly plants are being dug up and moved in preparation for the work to come which should keep the cast iron structure in good condition for a few more decades.

Gloria let out an audible squeek of excitement when she saw that the staircase to the upper balcony was open. This is just the sort of drama she was pining for and she was gone like a shot. I followed up the spiral staircase at a slower pace. I am generally better in a straight line.

There is a magnificent view from the upper gallery. From the ground it is easy to understimate the size of the trees. The large Jubaea chilensis in the centre of the picture was left in situ during the last renovation and survived for several years unprotected while the glass was removed and the frame repaired. It is approaching the stage when the building itself is too small to contain it. I do hope a way can be found to conserve it for the future.

The Xstrata Treetop Walkway is a more recent steel structure that has been built behind the Temperate House. It allows people to view the gardens from treetop level. It seems that when Gloria said drama, she really meant that she wanted things to climb. Up we went.

The view is well worth the effort. I'm not sure that I learnt anything about the tree canopy but it certainly offers a different perspective. I was pleased that we had done this before lunch. The metalwork is reassuringly solid though the surrounding trees sway a little in the breeze which is disconcerting.

The Palm House was our second charismatic destination for the day. Fortified by a moderate lunch I felt that a short constitutional in a tropical climate would be very soothing. The marvellous rounded shape of the building is well suited to slumbering and if I had located a suitable seat I might have had a quiet moment in that happy part of the afternoon before the tea kettle boils.

In the absence of a suitable seat I was distracted by Dehrainia smaragdina. I wandered into a perfumed region and could see neither flowers nor elderly ladies that might be the source. I was quite startled to realise that the perfume came from these large flowers that were exactly the same shade of green as the leaves. I can offer no insight into the habits of the plant, I don't recall seeing it before though it has clearly been here for years and I must have walked past it many times before. I watched a great many people walk past it today without noticing. If we consider the size and number of flowers it had produced it was the most impressive plant in the greenhouse by a very large margin.

Relaxing moments are to be grasped. We turned a corner and Gloria spotted the stairs to the upper gallery. We were off. For my part the voyage up was a little slower. I put it down to the gravitational impact of lunch. Too much speed on a spiral staircase can leave one quite dizzy.

The Palm House is very densely planted and the view from the gallery is mostly green. There are some places where it is possible to see through to the other side. I think there must be a school break at the moment because the gallery rapidly filled with small children and we retreated.

At the end of the afternoon the sun set beind the Palm House and provided some theatrical drama in this magnificent garden.

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