Popping up to London to see a friend I took the opportunity to visit two gardens that I can thoroughly recommend. I have been to both before, and returning I found both had changed and both felt fresh and interesting. It was, of course, autumn which put a little bit of a dampener on things but not much, both gardens had aged well through the seasons and besides most of the excitement goes on in my head anyway as I consider the possibilities offered for my own plots.
The first garden was Kew Gardens, a botanical garden that is world famous. I once did an art project there when I was a student, in the new glasshouses. I spent a whole two working weeks there and loved every minute. This time I went there to see the incredible edibles exhibition. Apart from seeing some edible plants I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was a very artistically designed garden – one that was basically circular – and about the size of two tennis courts. It was made up of raised beds, constructed from railway sleepers, and surrounded by dwarfing fruit and nut “trees”. The beds were polycultures of plants (ie, not rows of carrots) and had quite a bushy, herbaceous feel. They were also ordered according to region of origin, which is very educational but probably less exciting than jumbling them up. The layout of the beds was really arty though and I was jealous, the garden combined looks and edibility which is two of the things I am about in my gardening.
Even though I am tired of the current vogue for exotic vegetables (my cucamelons yielded poorly) I had a look for anything exotic that might actually be good. Their cucamelons had yielded well and looked pretty as well as productive which gave me pause for thought. The raised beds were clearly stuffed full of compost and it showed in the plants. Even the european section, which had brussels in it, had giant brussels. I was impressed with the yacon, as a herbaceous plant – I thought first of all it was a Jerusalem artichoke -but as big bushy clumps I thought it was attractive.
There were other things on display at Kew to do with the incredible edibles exhibition but this part was the best bit.
The second garden was the Chelsea Physic Garden, a garden I am really getting passionate about. All the plants have a useful role to play for human beings even if their products are medical ones that cant be directly used by the gardener. With the current fashion for kitchen gardening they have a new spruced up kitchen garden as well as a forest garden section that illustrated forest garden plants but wasn’t actually a forest garden. There is also a section of garden that shows plants that have craft or manufacturing uses as well as religious uses.
My impression of the place is that there are too many “useless” trees casting shade when there could be useful ones like the most northerly fruiting olive they have there. As you can see from the photos there is a lot of shade but that hasn’t stopped them making a very beautiful and productive garden. This garden showed no frost damage (which Kew did on its squashes) a testament to its very sheltered position.
All in all, a smashing weekend. But now I wish to make a complaint. The tickets for Kew were £14.50 and Chelsea £9.00, taking the option for visiting these places away from people with low incomes. I am a gardening enthusiast, this is my main hobby, but even I wince at the price. Is everything good in this country laid on only for those with plenty of cash?. Shame on the boards or trusts or whatever it is that governs these institutions.
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