Kew. 21.02.14

There is nothing like a snowdrop show to stimulate the appetite. We were off to Kew in a flash. The Orangery is much more appealing to the elderly than the diners dungeon at Vincent Square. It is a little unfortunate that this was a three course visit to Kew, but the gardens were lovely and we had a stroll after lunch. I could pretend that it was more than that but I find it best to be honest after a glass or two of wine. Not as honest as Gloria can be, perhaps but best not to embelish the truth.

In recent years flags have become very popular, especially when they state the obvious. Kew describe their orchid event as a festival so there must be flags.
The Princess of wales Conservatory is redecorated in orchids. Last time we were here the display was being constructed and I was especially keen to see the end result. If there was only time to see one thing, I wanted it to be the orchids!

The heart of the display is made of these wonderful columns of bloom, built around the support structure of the greenhouse. Oncidium are unfashionably yellow, but I like the way they combine with the bright colours here.
This reminds me of the relationship Chinese craftsmen of old forged between art and function. The neccessary structure made beautiful. In the west, the functional is made plain and decoration exists as a pure abstract, stripped of practical use.

The orchids are sublime (though common commercial varieties of no botanical consequence) and there is always a danger with the sublime. It teeters relentlessly towards the ridiculous. Kew are telling a story (because we are all too stupid to understand anything without a simplified narrative) of the relationship between the garden and its plant collectors. This story is presented as an island in the pond, served by a boat that is either delivering or removing a flower arrangement. A pond and a boat would score highly as accessories in any flower arranging competition. Let us be generous and call it 'The Lost world' rather than 'Voyage of the Damned'.

I will admit that I was becoming a little jaded about the value of all this artifice. The great pile of orchids rising to the rafters was without doubt the highlight of the whole event. Then I chanced upon this floral pudding on a stick and was delighted that the sprites of horticulture are alive and well, merrily making mischief.

Unfortunately Gloria felt goaded by my comments to her on art and lethargy over lunch. She spent the rest of the afternoon trying to demonstrate that photography is art rather than representation.
As a consequence, these lovely Echinocereus grusonii have become a composition. An interplay of light and form.
It seems to me that the plants were entirely satisfactory exactly as they were. This sort of careful editing implies a deficiency that doesn't exist.
But Gloria is scowling at me anyway. She has made a lovely picture but I do not think she has improved on the simple reality.

Art continues to occupy us. We follow the path along the crocus walk, a recent feature that is increasing in beauty with every year. Fortunately the sun has been shining and the crocus are smiling at the sky. Gloria twisted herself into knots trying to find a new way of expressing their beauty but finally accepted that it had all been done before. All that is left is to record the moment as simply and honestly as one can. We are approaching agreement at an intellectual level at least.

A small leap from crocus to alpine houses perhaps? This one is a little too far up its own arts for my taste but I am coming to appreciate it for what it is and not dwell on what it could have been. It is a beautiful thing and if it could find a beautiful nickname it would be world famous. 'Alpine house' is not a term that generally signifies great architecture.
The sky is darkening, we are exhausted and we are travelling to the south coast tomorrow so it is time to get some rest.

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