Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Kew Part two (we finally get to the heart of it!)

Acer griseum

We're now getting closer to my favorite part of Kew (the alpines!) but on the way we have to stop and admire Acer griseum, whose grizzled red bark is trying hard to match the hue of Mike Bone's beard.

Passing by the Princess of Wales' conservatory again, I had to stop and admire the lavender planting--contrasting the various species and cultivars.

Kniphofia porphyrantha

The label says it's K. porphyrantha: and I suppose I've seen enough variability in the species both in the wild and in my garden I will believe it.  This is certainly different from the compact alpine growing by the acre around Witzieshoek, well less than a foot tall and pure yellow

FINALLY, the rock garden!

Larg areas had been re-worked, so there were some rather stark vistas--but most of it was in tip-top form.

Penstemon barbatus

As I get closer I see the red spires are a Colorado native! Fun to get a whiff of home in London!

So many plants I've tried and lost! A visit to Kew's classic rock garde always brings home a long list of "must grow this again!"...

Euryanthe (Mimulus) naiandinus

Somewhere, probably as a transparency that I haven't scanned, I have a picture I took twenty years ago of this in the wild. I was with John Watson, who named this originally and I photographed it with John's "naiad" wife, Anita sitting next to it. In a perfect world I'd follow this picture with that image. Perhaps if Biden defeats Beelzebub I can make amends and scan and add that image to follow.

Fascicularia pitcairnifolia

I was startled to see hardy bromeliads in the South American section. This one from Chile. I recall seeing a number of Puyas blooming nearby on my last visit as well...

Alstroemeria presliana ssp. australis

I love the siting of this plant. Would love to be able to grow a dwarf Alstroemeria like this (it has to be possible in my climate).

The blocky limestone and water features in this garden are iconic: I have so loved to visit and revisit over the decades...

A recently replanted bed: Americans always feel that English gardens are great because they're so "old"...I have a hunch they're great because they're so frequently renewed.

The truly surreal alpine house: what a structure!

I'm so ancient that I first visited RBG Kew in 1981, the same week they dedicated the FIRST glorious Alpine House (I'll never forget the youthful Tony Hall scurrying around that perfect little gem way back then--a fraction of the size of this amazing structure. And Tony is now happily retired (and living across the street from Kew!). I know I'm not the only one who regards the Kew alpine house as the pearl in that monumental oyster of a garden.

Lots of interpretive panels...

Origanum dictamnus

I'm amazed this is successfully growing in open soil: I wonder if it persists. We find it hardy only in crevices of a wall or a crevice garden.

Erodium petraeum

An extremely attractive form of this: I wonder if it's in commerce? I'd love to grow it.

Stachys candida

I grew this for years from Archibald seed. What a spectacular stand! Grew is the operative word...

Hypericum athoum

I grew this as well: the difference is that Kew probably still grows it. You can't beat Kew.

Dierama igneum

I've tried this a few times...

Euphorbia myrsinites

This makes me chuckle: this Euphorbia is technically "banned" in Denver:  It has naturalized in a few spots (probably escapes from gardens) and there's a fairly virulent campaign to eliminate it in gardens and the wild. If you look closely, you'll see a few seedlings popping up around the plants here as well...there's a hoary specimen even in the alpine house!

Linum cf. arboreum

The label says it's from Crete (as are my ancestors).

Sedum sedoides

We've found this to be the most drought tolerant Sedum--and it's even championed by Denver Botanic Gardens plant marketing program, Plant Select.

Calamintha grandiflora (I think)

I neglected to photograph the label, so this is my guess....

Hypericum empetrifolium

Much more exuberant than the plants I've seen in the eastern Mediterranean.

Delphinium sp.

I am distressed I didn't photograph the label for this: I'm currently on a bit of a quest for wild delphiniums.

I love the sleek arching lines of the  Alpine house, which created quite a stir when it was launched. (Figuratively, not literally)

All the times I've visited both the old (small) alpine house and this one, I'm amazed by the enormous variety of plants and their artful display. Most are unique and rare. But even the commoner things have something to say.

Thymus moroderi

I have a bit of a schtick about thymes: I'd like to grow all of them. This one was new to me.

More and more pots, all perfectly grown.

Salvia taraxacifolia

I've killed this a few times. Groan.

South African corner with Mutisia decurrens and Tropaeolum cf. polyphyllum

What a splendiferous display!

Deuterocohnia brevifolia

I recall seeing this growing outdoors at RBG Edinburgh (with its older name Abromietiella)

Do you have any idea what it takes to grow so many gems, and display them with such perfection?

Salvia daghestanica

One of the feathers in my cap is having helped distribute this widely in commerce in America. Originally collected in the northern Caucasus by my good friend Henrik Zetterlund of the incomparable Gothenburg botanical garden.

Santolina elegans

Ah! Another plant I once grew...

Cheilanthes lindheimeri

One of our finest dryland ferns...

Dactylorhiza sp.

So annoying to see these in every British garden where they can almost be pests.

Trautvetteria japonicum

A new one for me: I grow its American cousin (which is even native in Colorado!)

Centaurea cf. ragusina

I'm guessing on the name.

Erigeron scopulinus

I zoomed in: it is probably the same clone as ours, but ours grows flat as a pancake.

Salvia roemeriana

Also guessing on this name...

Paronychia pulvinata

As I look at the source and year, this could well have been my own seed collection.

Origanum cf. calcaratum

Lalbel missing: I'm guessing on the name: it could be O. dictamnus again.

Monardella macrantha & Aquilegia elegantula

It warms to cockles of my heart to compare this to the fat mats smothered with flowers at Chatfield: for once we trumped beat Kew!

Conanthera trimaculata

A stunning Chilean bulb that is new to me.

Roscoea schneideriana

I'm quite sure I saw this on Ganghoba  (Yunnan) last year in the wild. I love seeing plants in the wild that I've grown and vice versa.

I wonder if that's Pelargonium endlicherianum or perhaps a hybrid with quercetorum?

Coris monspeliensis

Another plant new to me: possibly a good one for us to try (a xeric Primulaceae!)

Bukiniczia cabulica

What a tale this picture tells: it was still labeled Dictyolimon macrorhabdos--as it was when I first grew it. We then changed the name to Aeoniopsis cabulica--due to the key in Flora Iranica. Someone insisted it's now Bukiniczia cabulica, so we all bleat and follow suit. First collected in the early 80's by Henrik (again) in Pakistan, Dan Johnson and I recollected it in 2001 between the Deosai plateau and Skardu. I'm pretty sure all plants in cultivation trace to Henrik's, however (via seed we shared widely in the 80's)

Such elegant tableaux!

"Nananthus vittatus"

I have me doots about the I.D. on this: it looks as though it could be a hybrid with Aloinopsis, certainly not pure N.vittatus (don't we love to try and find little solecisms like this on labels?)

A Helichrysum I whose label I failed to photograph: I believe it's Ethiopian.

Asteriscus maritimus

What a fine combo!

Hermannia cf. stricta

I'm quite confident this traces to my 1994 trip to Hantamsberg where I collected a Hermannia like this I labeled  "cf. stricta" which it is not.

Hypericum aegypticum

Just where in Egypt does this grow, I wonder?

Astragalus massiliense

A milkvetchI would love to grow.

Thymus sibthorpii

Another stunning Thyme. For a good thyme go to Kew! We seem to have wandered out of the Alpine house again...

Tanacetum densum ssp. amani

Somewhat annoyed to see this: this thrives for us and I didn't think it would grow so well in a Maritime climate. Wrong again. Peter Davis' magnificent collection which my friend Homer Hill dubbed 'Partridge Feather'--which seems to have stuck.

Anthyllis hystrix

To die for mounds of a shrubby pea. I fear they would die if I tried it. But we grow the Berkheya purpurea you see beyond quite well as well.

Eryngium varia

A perfect specimen of this classic Atlas native.

There's a large border dedicated to Salvia, which I lingered over: a fantastic collection incidentally.

Salvia brevilabra

One measley example from thence: such a wealth of salvia in China! I saw a dozen species or more the last two years, none of which are in cultivation in America.

Centaurea tenoreana

Don Juan must have grown this. Similar (though not as white) to the commonly grown C. gymnocarpa, which is also from Italy.

Sideritis trojana

I must have missed this as we drove from Mt. Ida to Istanbul by Troy!

Arum cyreneicum

Even North African bulbs love Kew!

Bupleurum spinosum

So much more upright than my plants: perhaps these are juvenile?

Antennaria dioica & Teucrium chamaepitys

The pussytoes are not remarkable, but the Ajuga made me chuckle: one of my worst garden weeds (which I admit I rather enjoy). Weediness is a relative phenomenon, obviously!

A splendid bedstraw whose label I failed to photograph, alas!

Inula salicina

I love the massive displays of plants like this on grand rock work--as you find here, at RBG Edinburgh and the great Continental botanic garden rock gardens. We have some massive displays like this in Denver as well.

I took far more vistas like this at Kew on my first visit in 1981--all unscanned transparencies. I must scan them one day!

Campanula fragilis var. cavolinii

A perfectly sited specimen of this fantastic bellflower.

Hypericum sp.?

A rather unconventional planting of a shrub in a crevice.  I neglected to photograph the label, sorry!

Iris cf, delavayi

One of the 49 chromosome "Siberians" which come from China--I'm pretty sure this is the right species (it looks like the one I've grown under that name)

More vistas...

Wahlenbergia albomarginata ssp. laxa

And yet another form of W. albomarginata gone wild...

Arthropodium candidum

Another antipodean Arthropodium that's tender for us!

Celmisia mackaui

Celmisias are reputed to prefer the cool north of Britain--but this is obviously happy here.

Hebe cf buchananii
Another happy New Zealander

A parting view (for this Blog post at least) of the fantastic rock garden. Oh to visit again soon!

A Perovskia (now, alas Salvia sp.)

I end on one of the most ubiquitous industrial plants that grows in medians and everywhere around Denver--though never so diminutive: wish I'd photographed the label..

I still have pictures of scads of plants from the rock garden at Kew, and other parts of the garden--for at least three more blog posts of pictures from just this one visit...

And my slide library is full of hundreds more transparencies from other visits thence I've never scanned (of course) and let's not even talk about the dozens of other botanic gardens across Europe and America I've never bothered to post. The world is such a treasure trove of plants: let's hope one day we can fly and drive around a bit more freely (although probably never as we once did)--and let's hope that we as humans can learn to curtail our destructive urges which are still destroying so much in nature and human culture...

I guess I'll leave it at that before I become even MORE political! 

[to be continued]


  1. Kew does not have a rock garden. They have the whole darn outcropping.

    1. It's an extraordinary monument full of treasures that they maintain with great rigor! I am astonished each time I visit to see so many old plant friends still thriving there, and always a lot of new ones (especially in the constantly revolving alpine house). A sterling reputation that's well earned, James!

    2. If it was not clear, I was being complementary. [I] have a rock garden. The plantings at Kew are in a completely different league.


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