Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kew Wednesdays, the Palm House


Once again I’ve come away from an outstanding Botanical Garden with too many photos to squeeze into just one or two posts. You know what that means! Its Kew Wednesdays for the rest of the year (kidding...just barely), today we start at the Palm House.

We’d planned to visit Kew on Monday; however the weather forecast was horrible, extreme wind and rain. So we switched and went to the British Museum instead, thank god as we learned that night the Kew had taken the unusual step of closing for the day. Not only had the grounds taken a beating from the weather but a visitor to the gardens had been killed by a falling branch. We felt lucky not only to have escaped the extreme weather but not to have made the 40 minute train excursion out to the garden, only to be turned away. When Tuesday dawned with only slightly cloudy skies I felt truly blessed.

The Palm House was constructed between 1844 and 1848…“experts consider Kew’s Palm House as the most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure in the world. It was designed to accommodate the exotic palms being collected and introduced to Europe in early Victorian times. The project was pioneering, as it was the first time engineers had used wrought iron to span such large widths without supporting columns. This technique was borrowed from the shipbuilding industry; from a distance the glasshouse resembles an upturned hull.” (source)

Inside it was a jungle.

Since the Palm House closed early on Tuesdays it was our first stop, and OMG, I could barely breathe while we were inside. I have no nudist tendencies (you’re welcome) but I was stripping off layers as we walked though. It had to be upwards of 110 degrees with 98% humidity. I thought I was going to pass out. That physical level of discomfort combined with my excitement of actually being at Kew had me flitting around like a hummingbird. It’s a wonder any of these photos turned out! Sadly I didn’t focus much on long establishing shots, photos of the structure or even plant names. I wish I could do it all over again! Here are the best of the photos I took inside the Palm House…

Musa acuminata 'Dwarf Cavendish'

'Parrots Flower' Heliconia psittacorum

I love the look of this epiphytic "moss"...

Plumeria inodora bloom.

Dioon spinulosum, this plant produces the largest cones of any known plant, living or extinct.

Aiphanes eggersii...such amazing spikes!

Zamia pseudomonticola

Alocasia macrorrhizos

Ceratozamia miquelian

Pandanus vandermeeschii, at the bottom...

Pandanus vandermeeschii, at the top...

Gustavia superba

Encephalartos (not sure which species)

Close up...

If someone said to you "this is the oldest pot plant in the world" would you think of a Cycad? Exactly.

But it is! (the oldest container plant) Can you imagine the responsibility of keeping this bad boy alive?

Pritchardia elliptica

Pavonia x. gledhillii flowers in front of Pritchardia elliptica leaves.

Dangerous!

Aiphanes minima, there are even spikes on the fronds...

Aiphanes minima, love this plant.

Look up! Largest plant in the Palm House. Sadly there were no monkeys.

Attalea butyracea

Zingiber spectabile

Hemigraphis repanda, such a purple to exist in nature.

Salacca ramosiana, I had no idea the Palm House was going to be so spiky!

Sommeria elegans

This is the view down one of the side "arms" of the building from up in the catwalk around the top bits of the Palm House.

Looking down on the plants...

It was only from above that I spotted my Palm House plant crush...(well, besides all the spikes!) Cecropia glaziovii, aren't those leaves amazing?

Looking down the other "arm"...

And getting ready to go back down the stairs.

Like I said, it was a jungle in there.

Later as we walked past the Palm House en-route to another part of the garden I captured my favorite view the building, as the outlines of the plants inside became visible.

45 comments:

  1. Great post! Great pictures! Thanks for letting me take a virtual tour with you. I would love to visit Kew someday.

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    1. And you should! So much history there, I do wish there was more of that on display though.

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  2. Thanks for sharing these! Looking at your photos, I can totally understand the appeal of palms. They're so very different from most of what we grow in every day gardens. That's a great picture looking down at the Cecropia. And whatever that thing is with the mopheads hanging from it -- I love it.

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    1. Alison that's the perfect description, I knew exactly what one you were referring to. Glad you enjoyed the visit, and you didn't even have to sweat!

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  3. It's amazing how so many plants can be packed into a relatively "small" space... although that's how they grow in the wild anyway, right?

    I'm not even sure those spiked plants would be legal in your garden, even if they would survive there. O_O

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    1. Since when is legal a consideration? Ha! I had to...no I have no illegal plants growing in my garden, although I guess the plant lights in the basement over the winter have aroused the suspicion of a couple of neighbors.

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  4. Wow, that is one gorgeous frenzy of tropical growth! I love the Pritchardia elliptica - such perfect and elegant fans. And what Alison said: those mopheads of fruit from the unID'd tree - just great. Thanks for holding out in the humidity and heat for our benefit!

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    1. A "gorgeous frenzy of tropical growth" should be on their signs, that's exactly what it is.

      I wonder if the Pritchardia elliptica fans get shredded in "nature" you know like the banana's in California?

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  5. In a word- Wow.

    When we get a chance to go to London, this place is definitely on my must see list!

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    1. Make sure you allow a whole day, you'll be really bummed if you don't!

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  6. I think those Cecropia leaves might be my favorite leaves ever.

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  7. Flipping epic! I love the palm house. I spent hours in there! Can't you see it now? Me dangling from a palm tree?!

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    1. Louis I'm surprised they could get you to leave! I could see you hiding in a corner trying to spend the night there. Heck, I'm surprised you didn't just volunteer to become and indentured servant.

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    2. If it meant I could live in the palm house, bring it on!

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  8. Kew Wednesdays, bring it ON!

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    1. Will you still feel the same in December? Nah, I don't think even I can make it last that long.

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  9. wow looks like it need a little apint...i can see you are still drawn to "danger...Mr Skpiky...that spanish moss picture funny..I just sprayed mine with cooper professioanlyy to rid myself of some of it/

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    1. I'm sure if it was invasive the moss would loose it's attractiveness but from here in Oregon it's looking pretty cool! I remember when I was in New Orleans and saw a big mass hanging from a tree I was in LOVE!

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  10. Yesterday you were 5 minutes form my office (at the British museum) and today you were 5 minutes from my home. I love seeing peoples reaction to Kew, I take it for granted just being to pop in on a sunny day. And that storm was quite a shock.

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    1. Oh man! If I had known I was going to be so close I would have begged an invite to meet you and see your amazing spiky collection in person. For some reason I mentally had you no where near London.

      I think my favorite part of Kew is the fact that even if someone never left England by visiting Kew they could still be exposed to plants from all over the world. That's pretty wonderful.

      Hope your home/garden fared okay in the storm.

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    2. Next time you are in London let me know, and you are more than welcome to come and say hello. The house was fine in the storm, it is more the amount of rain we have had this summer that is the worry. The wettest summer in 100 years not great for some of my plants.

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  11. Absolutely awesome! The heat hits you like . . . KAPOW. Mophead - caryota? When I went they had a fishtail palm (caryota sp.) flowering, it looked just like that mopheaded monster. I remember they had leviathan strelitzias in there when I went. What else . . . the lipstick palm was pretty impressive. Also the way the pandanus leaves fan out, amazing.

    NONE OF THIS WILL GROW HERE *RAGES*

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    1. Yes, exactly...KAPOW x2! You don't happen to know how hot they keep it in there do you? I tried to find something online but came up empty.

      If it meant having to live in that heat and humidity I would happily give up growing any of those plants! Bring on the desert!

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    2. No, I can't tell you. Probably the humidity adds to the feeling of warmth.

      I once visited a private garden that featured a miniature version of the palm house, kept at, I remember, 27C/81F. Kew was definitely warmer than that and besides, the private garden's choice of plants leant more towards the subtropical than fully tropical: they had big strelitzia nicolai, cyperus papyrus, brugmansia, alocasia.

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  12. Wonderful, wonderful. So glad you chose the right day to visit Kew and didn't get into that storm. The Aiphanes eggersii... is right up your alley with all those spikes. The old cycad is amazing!

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    1. It was hard to get proper perspective on just how big that Cycad is, I think it would certainly stretch across my living room.

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  13. Gorgeous as always! (And your blog post is pretty swell, too.) Looking forward to Wednesdays for the rest of the year!

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    1. I'll do my best to try and stretch it that long!

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  14. What a great idea Loree, to designate a day of the week to feature areas of Kew (or any other large botanical sights for that matter) one at a time. There's so many aspects of it that it's difficult, even impossible, to feature them all in one post. Looking forward to all the installments :)

    I think the very spiky cycad could be Encephalartos horridus. I'll keep an eye on it next time we're there and will check the label.

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    1. The idea came from my Huntington (Garden) Fridays a few months back. It was so much more enjoyable to stretch it out and not have to look through 100's of photos in one post, or feel like I was selling the place short. I've started going through the photos I took at your place and I think we might have to have a couple of Alternative Eden posts!

      I bet you're right about the Encephalartos, that seemed to be the spikiest one when we visited the Berkelely Botanical Garden a few years back.

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  15. Wow, love the Aiphanes species! Too cool. Thanks for sharing pictures, would love to go back to the UK again some day and see Kew Gardens.

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    1. And with such history you can be assured that when you do go they'll still be there. Just pray for no big bad storms!

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  16. I had an opposite reaction entering the Palm House. I was so cold and miserable while I was in London, despite it being July, that when we entered the Palm House I felt like I was back home and was loving it.

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    1. I can see that in the dead of winter a little trip through might be a nice thing but July? Wow. That's sad.

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  17. Ahhh Kew... A favorite picnic destination, with our Marks and Sparks goodies and bottle of plonk. And after a the steamy Palm house , a nice snooze under a shady tree.

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    1. You paint a lovely picture Linda.

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  18. The structure alone is worth a visit and adding in beautiful plants with interesting stories makes it special too. Foliage, spikes, tropical flowers, container plants, I love it all.

    I think we need to travel again, this time as gardeners.

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  19. I remember asking Marty to carefully peel the label off the beer we had at Kew Gardens restaurant after seeing the incredible glasshouse. I pasted that label into my travel journal, which I still have around here somewhere. So glad you got to see it, Loree.

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  20. Aiphanes has long been among my favorite palm genera, the spines are just so crazy! I think you mystery Encephalartos is E. horridus

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