Kew. 24.01.15

We have taken advantage of the opportunity to visit Kew. Once again we find a frost on the ground and we move as briskly as we are able to the Princess of Wales Conservatory to enjoy the vibrant tropical growth and the warmth.

On the way we passed the lake looking strangely still. It took a moment to realise that the seagulls were standing on the surface and not floating. Ice covered the surface and it was still frozen at the end of the day. We did not stay long to appreciate it.

We travelled the long way round to pay a quick visit to the alpine house. Even at this time of the year it is filled with good things. Helleborus thibetanus is slowly starting to appear in the larger public collections though I haven't seen it in many private gardens. It doesn't seem to prosper outside but that may be a good thing. The pale pink flowers open in January and look too fragile to withstand harsh conditions.

I know nothing about Iris nicolai but it was charming. Gloria went to great trouble to take this picture and I am grateful on two counts - that I have the picture and that we got her back onto her feet without assistance. The alpine house is a strange grey concrete structure at ground level which is difficult to reconcile with the great flying arc of glass above. Sometimes the alpines are a little overwhelmed by the dull background but in the sun they almost glow.

In the conservatory there are plenty of signs of the short days of winter. Many of the Aloes flower at this time which makes them especially useful in heated greenhouses (they can't take a lot of cold). Aloe yavelliana produces a number of upright spikelets from each stem and the pale flowers had great impact with the light shining through them.

Once it was enough to grow the larger Agave. Now it seems they must have space to flower. Agave attenuata needs some heat in winter if it is to prosper, but the flower spike bends over as it develops which helps to keep it from breaking through the roof. It will be interesting to see if it develops seed pods under these conditions.

It is snowdrop season. Galanthus gracilis 'Highdown' is looking perfect in the sunshine. The twisted grey leaves are distinctive and well displyed among the rock work. Once Gloria loved them but her affection has faded. They involve quite a lot of bending over and close observation, things she has started to avoid.

Walking back to the gate through the rock garden we met this lovely specimen of Yucca angustifolia. It is always a pleasure to see people taking risks with large specimens like this, they add great character to Kew and ensure its reputation as a great garden.

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