Saturday, June 23

sunshine at kew gardens

What better thing to do on a glorious London summer's day than stroll the parklands, cobblestones and glasshouses of Kew Gardens?  I find carrying sunglasses far more respectable than a rain coat. Layers are most cumbersome, and I end up with a bag of stuffing when the sun appears or when I step into an overheated shop or steamy tube carriage.  No such challenge on this fine garden morning, as the mothers with strollers, animated school kids and retired couples would agree.  England is lucky the weather isn't consistently pleasant or there would be even more people wanting to immigrate. The Poms do a fine queue, and a delightful line in formal gardens.

I travelled through every climate zone which vividly demonstrated the power of the senses to dictate a sense of place. My first stop was the palm house, where the thick scent of dampness and humidity had be back in the tropics, then my brain tried to trick me into believing I was in Australia as the familiar smell of eucalyptus oil emanated from crushed leaves underfoot. The Queen's Garden was a highlight; a formal 17th century style space of clipped hedges and fountains, with an adjacent sunken medicinal herb garden. Its calm symmetry is the antithesis of Asian chaos. I was sure to stay well clear of the Mandrake, lest be struck down by child bearing.

Until October, there is an installation of wood and rusty steel sculptors by UK artist David Nash. His main tools are a chainsaw and axe, with some pieces charred black with an open fire after carving. Nash only works with trees that have fallen naturally or must be felled because of storm of disease damage, and he is currently working on site with trees from the Botanic Garden.

After three tranquil hours of garden love, I luxuriated in the sun with a soy latte at the Orangery. Built in 1761 it is the largest classical style building in the Gardens.

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