The long, cold winter has so held the gardens back, while the sudden warmth of early May sent everything charging forward, that there's a real sense of how 'the treasure of nature's germens tumble all together' (perhaps I misinterpret Macbeth, but the gist is right). I've delayed so long with the piece I wanted to write about three weeks in spring, and the changes seen over two visits to Kew, that now the purple wisteria, peonies and laburnum are out too. Initially, though, I wanted to observe the onset of easter according to the flowering of the pulsatilla or pasque flower. The rockery specimens above were out at Kew on 14 April, but my own windowbox subspecies finally flowered the following Sunday, and has only just stopped.
As for the crazy profusion of the Botanics, several rarities spotted on the first excursion of the year were over and gone by the next, on the second of three unnaturally perfect days at the start of May. Not surprisingly, many of the Alpine House inhabitants had paid their floral respects and moved on, among them this rare Iris sari manissadjanii from Turkey.
The carpet of Cretan Chinodoxa ('glory of the snow') near Kew Palace was also at its best one week, gone the next.
Mid-April leafing was slow. Only the Acer opalus or Italian maple was in anything like substantial leaf and flower
but various species of magnolia provided the flowering bridge between the April and May visits. Some had been nipped by the frosts, but not the later developers.You don't have to go far from the big gates in May to see a spectacular display.
Behind the pink magnolia, all furry buds several weeks earlier, is a wonder - cornus 'Ormonde' (a dogwood mixture between Cornus florida and Cornus nuttallii, if you really want to know).
There's another on the opposite side of the lake to the Palm House
and the nearby Gunnera are just beginning their monstrous annual adventure.
I headed up to the orchards between Temperate House and Pagoda
where apple tree marvels of all kinds were in full bloom and scent
and though the bluebell woods behind Queen Charlotte's Cottage were not yet in their prime, some patches were flourishing in plain sun.
Then I steered back round to the gate where I started alongside the Thames, via a Northern American red oak (Quercus rubra)
and a couple of magnificent beeches that turned out to be labelled not copper but purple (Fagus sylvatica purpurea - I think).
Nature's profusion flourished under more sunshine on consecutive weekends. We spent a blissful afternoon in the garden of our friends Daisy, François and Garance on the Layer Marney estate in Essex, followed by a high-summery picnic on the beach by the Saxon church at Bradwell-juxta-Mare on Bank Holiday Monday. And last Sunday I was down at Glyndebourne to talk at the Ariadne Study Morning, a fine one while it lasted, before zipping back on the 12.20 train to London to spiel again between Denis Kozhukhin's epic afternoon journey through Prokofiev's Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Piano Sonatas for the Southbank's The Rest is Noise festival.
I mention these only because I'm afraid I'll never get time to write them up - more trips beckon, and I haven't even finished with Sicily yet - and I didn't want the atmosphere to pass unrecorded. Now it's grey, cold and damp, but I leave you with the Glyndebourne gardens on yet another perfect if shorter-lived May morning.