Kew. 08.11.13

A new day dawns with the promise of fine weather from the forecast and some rather ominous cloud building in the west. There is a chill in the air and condensation on the windscreen which is such a blessing. Gloria is less nervous as a passenger when she can't see out.
We arrived at Kew as we often do, without mishap.

The Pagoda loomed out of the western gloom. Yesterday's bright autumn pictures are todays watercolours. Down came the rain and I skurried into the Palm House to escape it. Gloria joined me eventually. When it rains she feels the need to scowl disapprovingly at every single raindrop and won't seek shelter until she has made her point. She was wetter than she needed to be.
In the warmth of the Palm House she spent some time letting off steam.

The Palm House is undergoing a slow transformation. The dense foliage that blocks out the grey sky is being thinned. It is becoming a more pleasant place to linger. These marvellous scarlet cones on Encephalartos ferox were the most wonderful thing to find when hiding from the rain. I think these are female cones, but the sexual behviour of Cycads is complex and I don't like to enquire too closely. In my experience it invariably leads to a flustered half hour with an enthusiastic young man followed by a little sit down and a cup of tea.

The greyness lifted sufficiently to reveal the airoplanes descending towards Heathrow and we set off into the west. The mature conifers behind the lake create a sombre atmosphere. There is something slow and funereal about them and we didn't stay long. At my age it doesn't do to taunt such things. An occasional visit serves to remind me of the ugliness of many common conifers as they reach maturity. I have always said that conifers should be removed the moment they are tall enough to look you in the eye. It is good advice that I doubt anyone will heed.

In so many ways Ginkgo biloba is an exception but elderly specimens that have retained their beauty are rare. Usually they become gaunt and bits start to fall off them. As we were driving here I noted that someone had planted an avenue of Liriodendron along a rather dull sction of the North Circular Road. Let us hope that the road has to be widened before they start shedding brittle branches in every gust of wind!
This is a lovely Japanese Ginkgo called 'Ohatsuki' with pure yellow autumn foliage. Perhaps it will be lovely in maturity as well.

A commotion in the trees attracted our attention. A small flock of gulls were hovering over this Cornus koreana plucking the black fruits. It is not thing I have seen before and fortunately Gloria was quick enough with her camera to capture a picture.

Closer to the ground we discovered the very beautiful flowers of Camellia hengchuenensis. It is not a species I have ever seen before, but the branches were filled with these lovely white flowers. Gloria was looking distinctly pale at this point, so we hurried on in the hope of lunch in the Orangery. As it turned out, the hope was the best part but it restored the colour to Gloria's cheeks and that must be our reward.

As the day darkened the last thing we saw was this Strawberry Tree. Arbutus unedo produces its flowers in the dullest part of autumn, and at the same time the fruits from the year before ripen from green through yellow to red. It is a lovely crescendo to the year and a nice way to end the day.

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