Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kew Wednesdays: The Princess of Wales Conservatory, Part 1


The sky had been teasing us throughout our day at Kew, sun one moment, clouds the next followed by a downpour. As we walked up to the Princess of Wales Conservatory the sky turned dark and sprinkles started to fall.

All the better to have a little dramatic weather to accompany our arrival at this rather remarkable building and the fabulous plantings around it.

From the Kew website… “The Princess of Wales Conservatory was commissioned in 1982 to replace a group of 26 smaller buildings that were falling into disrepair. It was named after Princess Augusta, founder of Kew, and opened in 1987 by Diana, Princess of Wales. It is the most complex conservatory at Kew, containing ten computer-controlled climatic zones under one roof.”

“The two main climate zones are the ‘dry tropics’, representing the world’s warm, arid areas, and the ‘wet tropics’, housing moisture loving plants from ecosystems such as rainforests and mangrove swamps. The eight remaining microclimates include a seasonally dry zone containing desert and savanna plants, plus sections for carnivorous plants, ferns and orchids.”

I really thought I was paying more attention to the climactic zones and would be able to tell you when we passed from one to another, but I was wrong. I just got caught up in the beauty of the plants and failed to catalogue what section we were in. Hopefully you can relate…



Must be a Dasilyrion, I didn't see a label.

Even though I completely forgot about this small crevice garden when I did my post on the topic, it must have been part of the impetus for my thinking about them

Notice the painted backdrop, the desert goes on forever, all the way to the mountains!






When we first entered the conservatory many of the top vents were open, however as the rain picked up they started to close.The sound of the rain falling on the glass and the creaking of the gears closing the vents would make the perfect soundtrack to a scary movie...I felt as though the building was coming alive.

Yucca queretaroensis

Yucca queretaroensis, close-up!

Aloe sessiliflora

Aloe arborescens variegata

Dracaena cinnabari


Dracaena schizantha

Euphorbia fortissima

Euphorbia fortissima, close-up

LOVE this scene. I think I need to plant my Echium wildpretti in groups from now on! If the darn things just wouldn't bloom...







Selenicereus anthonyanus, quite possibly the coolest ground cover ever!

Titan arum. We were too late for the flower but this is just as good in my book!

Thunbergia mysorensis

Rhizophora 'Red Mangrove'

Here's an example of the signs I should have been taking a picture of with each zone we entered and left. That way I could have given you a much better tour!

We entered the conservatory in the desert and wound our way through the various zones and are now back at where we started, only on a different path. Quiabentia verticillata...crazy polka dots!

These remind me of the fabric versions I've seen. They almost look more fake than real.




The white plant, on the left...

This guy...

Is old!






That's it for Part 1! Next week in Part 2 of the Princess of Wales Conservatory we visit the Bromeliad section. While you can imagine I was perfectly at home in the desert (and took the bulk of my photos there) I was captivated by the different shapes and colors of the Bromeliads and could have spent an entire day just staring at them!

If you want to look back at past Kew Wednesdays posts: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4

26 comments:

  1. Hey Loree, what is the Latin name of the plant in photo 115? I saw them all over Hawaii and I loved them.

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    1. Agave attenuata, aren't they fabulous? Unfortunately not hardy in the slightest but since they have no spikes it's one of the friendlier agaves for overwintering indoors. Plus they seem to be okay with lower light levels than you might have expected. I think Rare Plant Research is your best bet for buying one around here.

      Hawaii huh? I'm jealous, someday I hope to make it there. Hope you took lots of pictures!

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  2. MAJOR WOW. Not only are the plants amazing in and of themselves, they also look like they're exceedingly well taken care of.

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    1. Definitely. There was an employee cleaning up a "planting" of Tillandsia and they were erring on the side of taking out plants that even hinted at not being perfect. I wanted to reach in the compost bin and pull a few of the better looking ones out. I did not.

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  3. my mouth hangs open with awe and lust over those giant cordylines and agaves out front! I love the Princess of Whales conservatory and was wondering when you'd get to it on the epic journeys of Kew Wednesdays. Thanks for sharing. LOVED IT~!

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    1. Glad you approve Louis, it definitely fits the EPIC descriptor.

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  4. You must have been in spiky heaven! Selenicereus anthonyanus is way cool although the name makes it sound like it's the cactus that Anthony pulled out of his posterior. I saw one at The Old Goat Farm & it was spectacular but I didn't know what it was! Just found a few mail order sources... The Titan arum seed head is breathtaking! I wonder if they leave all those outside plants in the ground year round? Another mouth watering Wednesday post!

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    1. Poor Anthony.

      You know when standing there looking at the outside plants I assumed they left them in place...but your question has me rethinking that. I've asked the Alternative Eden duo and will report on their answer.

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    2. Well I am told that most (but not all) of those plantings come out for the winter and are stored in a greenhouse. The ones tucked up under the buildings overhang stay in place, since they're protected from the rain.

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  5. Stunning!!!!! What a fabulous collection. You must have been in your glory with all the dangerous plants there. LOL Looking forward to the bromeliad collection. I'm an OCD collector of broms, especially love vrieseas. I have a Neoregelia called 'Big Mac' that I think of you every time I look at it as it has the biggest purple teeth. You'd love it!

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    1. You know I was! I can't wait to get all the bromeliad pictures together, there were so many stunning colors and shapes. And I am honored to be thought of with big purple teeth!

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  6. Of all the greenhouses at Kew, POW has got to be our favourite! It was a pleasure going through your photos, and a reminder why we like this glasshouse so much!

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    1. It it so well done, what a wonderful place to be able to visit in the grey cold winter months!

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  7. Amazing what those Brits can grow in a climate so challenging for Agaves, etc.

    I have Yucca queretaroensis, and by your photo I think I need to give them more room. Much, much, more room.

    Really enjoyed the tour, thanks!

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    1. It's probably a pretty slow grower right? Then again I can't imagine trying to move that bad boy once he gets very big...

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  8. The texture of that Yucca queretaroensis is lovely and fresh. Also, I have finally resolved the Firefox issues that I've had preventing me from commenting on blogger blogs! OMG I've left a comment here!

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    1. Yay!

      Isn't it ridiculous that we have so much trouble commenting on other blogging platforms. I've had to come up with a few work-arounds too. Why can't we all just get along?!

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  9. I guess you know that is my favourite part of Kew. It is hard to walk past those bins when they are cleaning up and not just want to take the whole lot home. Such a shame it can not be sold on, it would improve the plant shop no end!

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    1. Yes I had a suspicion that it might be.

      And yes! Funny (sad) to think that their "trash" is more valuable than the plants they've brought in to sell.

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  10. This was made to order for Danger Garden. Beautiful collection of plants so far from home. It's nice to see they take such good care of them and keep them out of the rain.

    Always learning something new, the RicRack plant has an official name.

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    1. But RicRack is so much more fun to say.

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  11. Fantastic!

    Titan arum: how could it look any better than it does here?

    One negative comment though: I've decided crevice gardens are NOT my thing. Blech.

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    1. I don't much care for this version of the crevice garden myself. I am glad I took the photo though as I will use it as a what NOT to do in my garden.

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  12. What an incredible place! I love that photo of the cluster of cacti (the ones you've seen fabric versions of), it looks like the Opuntia is doing a Mickey Mouse impression, photobombing the picture by jumping in front of them. Such crazy, danger garden plants, how could you not lead off your entire series of Kew Wednesdays with this conservatory?

    LOL at outlawgardener's comment!

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    1. I guess I like a little delayed gratification Alison. Also for my own sake I kind of like sticking to the same order (ish) that I saw the various parts of the garden.

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  13. Just when we think we've seen it all...along comes a post like this. The building! The plants! I'm speechless (well, almost...I do need to make special mention of the Euphorbia fortissima).

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