Sunday, 13 April 2014

Kew and Birds

Saturday April 13
Thanks to Mags, we were able to join Norfolk Alpine Garden Society's coach trip to Kew gardens. I am a member of the National Society but not the local branch. That will change.
The coach set off dead on 8 a.m., from Notcutts, Norwich, car park. Pam had woken me at 5 a.m.................
Kew has been on my bucket list for a while , I am remarkably ignorant of its history and geographical placement in London. The first surprise was disembarking at the side of a narrow urban street, crossing the road and entering via the ornate Victoria Gate. Where was the car park?
We'd been instructed to make our way directly to the Alpine House - via the loos - where Kit would be waiting to give us a tour of the alpine area. 

Davies Alpine House
We walked to the house via an extensive rock garden, longing to have a better look at the plants, yet not wanting to be late. 

Half an hour later, after a look at the plants in the house,

we were told that the tour wasn't until 1.15, it was now mid-day, and to go and have some lunch. Brilliant, all I needed was unnecessary walking. 
Good humouredly, we returned to the cafe at the Victoria Gate for a sandwich lunch, there was very little choice. The main eating places are elsewhere. M and J  found a lentil salad in a small tub, with the additional surprise of goat cheese, which neither like.  The place was heaving with families and small children. A holiday Saturday.
Back to the Alpine House, 15 minutes walk away, around the lake and past the Palm House.

Palm House
Kit soon arrived, telling us about the history of the alpine house, its sophisticated heating and ventilating system and the management of the display, before taking us behind the public area to the propogation, study and development section. What a privilege. Half the group stayed to look round the 'Melon Area' - in history it's where the king's melons were grown. This had many pots of plants, I was most interested in the miniature bulbs, especially the Tulips, Narcissi and Iris. I was delighted to see some of my plants growing there, including peonies I acquired from Pottertons last week.

When it was our turn, it was fascinating to hear from Kit how and when she and her team of three managed the whole area. It takes them a day a week to exchange display pots of flowers which are past their best for those coming into bloom. The fresh shoots of newly propogated bulbs looked like my minute leek seedlings.
By now, I was very foot weary, not to mention knees. I managed to walk the Princess of Wales Conservatory from tropical rainforest to desert houses, containing, cacti, ferns, orchids and carniverous plants before trudging back to the Victoria Gate for, first an icecream and then, the 3.30 train which tours the gardens. I would have liked a longer time in the Conservatory - with new legs.
The train was great for us. I knew the gardens were big but, the true extent was mind boggling. It would take us  a week to do it justice. There are 7 stops, one could get off at each, explore that area and then get back on another train for the next one. A good way to explore and spend the day. 
We loved the trees, a beautiful yellow Magnolia, enormous Eucalyptus, flowering cherries, gnarled and textured trunks etc etc. There are 6,000 trees of 2,000 varieties. Pam was in her element. 

Treetop Walkway
The Thames looks like an ordinary country river here, lovely.
Such and informative and interesting commentary by the driver, we loved the experience and the rest.
Back at the Victoria Gate Centre, Pam bought a thistle to commemorate the occasion. Time for a drink and a snack with M and J and two other society members before getting the coach home at 5.30.
The local society members were very pleasant and welcoming. Thank you. 
Kew Gardens List - 2 year ticks!
Two Ring-necked Parakeets flew, squawking, over our heads as we queued to get in. The day was punctuated by their strident but beautiful presence. Sheila found a nesting hole and a good photograp., Pam's only chance was a distant two birds in a tall tree.

We also had: Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Greylag, Egyptian and Canada Geese, Grey Heron, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Jay,  Dunnock, Robin, Golden Pheasant (from the train),   Wren, Crow, Jackdaw, Black-headed Gulls, Greater Black-backed Gull, Starling, Wood Pigeon, Rock Doves.

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