Friday 27 March 2020

Adieu to Kew and Fulham Palace Gardens

What a shame people couldn't do the right thing and resist flocking in groups to the places that keep us sane. I hope I've scrupulously observed the social distancing but saw packs picnicking in both places. Well, there's still the bike, and the Royal Parks remain open for now - I understand a rumour about enormous Richmond Park closing was a misreading of roads through being closed to traffic (and what bliss it was on Wednesday to cycle up there and see stags in a stream - more Richmond Glen than Park. But that's for another post).

Anyway, I'm truly thankful for catching the onrush of spring while I could. While I made a conscious effort on Sunday to cycle down to Bishop's Park and Fulham Palace Gardens, knowing closure was imminent for all Hammersmith and Fulham enclosed spaces, it was serendipity that not only did I make the effort to get to Kew once or twice a week, and finally on Saturday, when there was no warning of what was about to happen (but again, I can't blame them).

First visit on a bitterly cold, showery, intermittently sunny February day, passing early-blossoming Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula rubra'

and carpets of the Greek Scilla forbesii (glory-of-the-snow) beneath the Temple of Aeolus

was mostly Alpine House, rockery and magnolia grove centric. Irises and Mediterranean tulips were flourishing outside, and these saxifrages

while under glass much was made of the heavenly-scented Narcissus papyraceus

and a couple of anemones were flowering early. Pulsatillas next.

Steps quickened,  as black clouds loomed beyond the sunshine, towards the magnolias. Coming from the north, the one you tend to see first is Iolanthe, beautifully budding.

Then there's the grove over the lawn, dominated on that first visit by Magnolia campbellii, the pink tulip tree. Trust the remarkable Joseph Hooker to be behind it. He introduced the tree to Kew in 1848, the information tells us, 'naming it after his friend Dr. Archibald Campbell, Political Resident at Darjeeling, India, as a result of an eventful expedition they took through the eastern Himalayas'.

Around the Big One, others were in various stages of flower and bud.

That ensured revisits. My second trip focused on Magnolia X loebneri, 'Raspberry Fun' (maybe stick to the Latin name)

while there were pearls on a line from Magnolia cylindrica

Magnolia X soulangeana further north

is more or less opposite Iolanthe, flourishing on that second visit.

and here's the other side of the pine, where Acer opalus, the Italian maple, is beginning to flourish.

Third visit was to catch the cherry blossom around the Temperate House, so heading south. The vegetation around the Temple of Bellona had evolved in a fortnight.

There are more magnolias here, including a high-towering soulangeana (understandably sub-specied as superba)

and a tree coming into leaf with which I wasn't familiar, Tilia heterophylla or White Basswood, from south-eastern America.

So to the cherry avenues. The one north of the Temperate House is still in bud, but my absolute favourite, the profuse and fluffy Yoshino (Prunus X yedoensis), was much frequented - it's often used as a background for shots of models. One with her photographer had cleared off by the time I took this.

In the apple-tree groves few were flourishing, but Malus x purpurea 'eleyi' was shining dark-red with the pagoda in the background.

Another glory is Prunus 'taehaku', the Great White Cherry', in front of the Japanese temple.

We have a man as remarkable as Hooker to thank for its survival. Captain Collingwood 'Cherry' Ingram. There's an excellent article about him by his biographer, Naoko Abe, in the latest Kew magazine. 'Taihaku' became extinct in Japan, but Ingram reintroducd it there from cuttings taken in Sussex. Down the slope there's a cherry bearing his name, 'Prunus Collingwood Ingram'.

More cherry trees flourish at the back of the Palm House,

and in 2017 a group from Gifu prefecture in Japan donated 35 Somei-yoshino trees  which flourish at the edges of the rose garden.

Heading back to the magnolia grove for the third and final time, I found to my amazement that the fritillary meadow had sprouted. There was nothing but grass the previous week, and here were those most fascinating of flowers with their snakeshead/chess-board patterns, in abundance.

One public asset is staying open for the foreseeable future - the park of Chiswick House. The walk there from home took us along a jogger-laden riverside, admiring the gardens separated by the road from their houses on Chiswick Mall, with the curious little eyot beyond.

There's a clump of bushes and shrubs where I always hear the most vocal of blackbird song, but that day it was robin singing its little heart out.

We did our usual circuit of the lake over the splendid bridge, with bird activity lively as ever, and daffodils opposite the back of the temple.

The cafe was still open then - I had a good distance chat with the Polish manager, who said how proud she was of the staff's adapting to (even) higher levels of hygiene, and how good it was to have the park to walk through on her way to and from work - but the camellia house not, for obvious reasons. Soon the wisteria outside it will be blooming in spring's next stage.

but at least there are splendid specimens outside

and quite a few around Fulham Palace.

My farewell visit was too late for the walled garden of Eden, as I always call it (maybe it hadn't opened that day at all),

but not to walk around the outside, for which I'm grateful not only for different perspectives over walls and through gates

but also for the discovery of what had been done to the former no-man's-land between the churchyard and the entrance on that side, a wonderful planting of daffodils

and, thanks to a couple of feeders, a fine presence of birds. I thought this was a goldfinch, but the colourings aren't quite right. UPDATE: Robin Weiss in a comment has identified it as a chaffinch - very common bird, but I wasn't familiar with it beyond the name.

Horse chestnut in the drive beginning to flourish, and that's a farewell to the roof of the palace for now. We're lucky that this is early spring and not autumn declining into winer, to still have our one-a-day exercise, and to be able to take it - in the case of those who can get there without public transport - in the Royal Parks. There was decent space in Kensington Gardens yesterday.


David Damant said...

Hooker was a considerable man. He was an early member of the Order of Merit, and was President, not only a Fellow, of the Royal Society, indicating that the greatest scientists in the country valued his personality as well as his science. He was a close friend of Darwin ( who wrote of Hooker - " He is a delightfully pleasant companion and most kind-hearted. One can see at once that he is honourable to the back-bone....I have known hardly any man more lovable than Hooker " It was Hooker, with Lyell, who in July 1958 presented at the Linnean Society the papers of Darwin and Wallace on evolution by natural selection. They has no impact whatsoever, proving (as Wallace clearly stated later ) that it was Darwin's working out of the hypothesis of natural selection in proper detail in "On the Origin of Species" in 1859 which established the case.

David said...

Indeed. How I'd love to have Hooker and Darwin at my imaginary supper party, plus the Obamas and probably Hannah Arendt too. Now, if you have more to tell me about Captain Collingwood 'Cherry' Ingram, I'll be REALLY impressed.

David Damant said...

Your supper party will need a little care in management since Hannah Arendt, though one must agree with many of her views, does not ( from my limited reading) think in the English way (the way followed also by Americans like the Obamas ) One can see this notably in Darwin in the splendidly objective way he approached all areas of knowledge before coming to a conclusion, with a modesty that did not prevent his arguing his case. However, on reflection, this may be an advantage for the conversation

David said...

Exactly. All one needs are minds open to other points of view - as all these, I suspect, are. I love especially Darwin's noble essay on religion, so many of whose adherents have disrespected him by refusing even to discuss him (the lovely and poignant film Creation couldn't even be shown in America...)

David Damant said...

David, as you share my love of Darwin, please reject the film "Creation" I have looked at the summary on Wikipedia and it is fiction, and a seriously distorting fiction. Darwin's consideration of his wife, when he considered his scientific theories, is a matter of discussion, but nothing much is known. There were other reasons for his delay in finalising his thinking. More particularly, Darwin wrote the Origin of Species after the paper from Wallace arrived. Before that, as Darwin wrote, " Even Lyell and Hooker, though they listened with interest, never seemed to agree" He sat down and wrote it out in 13 months and nine days. It was absolutely different from the larger book, or rather compilation, which he had written before that, and the fact that he wrote it out so intensely explains the high quality of the book as literature. Huxley did not know of the theory of natural selection until the papers by Darwin and Wallace "and still more the Origin in 1859 " which came to him like " a flash of light" As you know I take an extremely hostile view of these fictional portrayals of real people and events..... it cannot be denied that they modify one's views, especially the subconscious views, and therefor bias the judgement. I do however agree with your point about the disgraceful banning of the film t=in the States

David said...

You are fully entitled to set your own parameters, but what a lot of beauty and pleasure you miss thereby. It's a work of art telling its own truth, not a documentary. And it has nothing but sympathy for Darwin. You might think too much, but how are you ever going to judge it by a summary? Your loss.

Anyway, you have a feast of beauty to look on above, and you haven't even commented on that.

Susan said...

I am grateful for your prompt to come visit here, particularly as we've had a most frustrating day (all to do with groceries, though at least we ended with a delicious dinner). These blooms are gorgeous, and your photographs capture their essence. The one of Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula rubra,' as just one example, is a splendid shot, not easy, either, as it is hard to get definition sufficient to set off the foam of blooms. It's also always interesting to realize how much ahead your springtime is from ours. Magnolia blossoms probably won't appear here for a month, as one example. And good indeed that you were able to take advantage before the walls closed in. We have a friend in Brooklyn who could walk out from his apartment to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which are a jewel--perhaps the jewel--in the crown of Brooklyn, but no more, closed to the public for the duration, whatever that is. (This will be true of our Innisfree, I feel pretty sure, but at least we do have other public access to nature still available.) And this reminds me of your lovely photo of the robin singing. We've seen our first bluebird here, always a welcome sign, which encouraged me, on a recent sunny, crisp day, to walk down the path in our own little private meadow to clean out our several bird boxes so as to ready them for the next round of nesting this spring. Stay safe . . .

David said...

I so envy you the bluebirds and hummingbirds. Not so much the later onset of spring, since everyone needs it NOW. The closure of H&F parks, incidentally, seems to have pushed everyone on to the Thameside paths - I won't be using those, at least in the vicinity, for some time. I should hope that once people learn the ropes of social distancing these places can be reopened as a vital resource. I'm disconcerted by the 'Stay at Home' - period commands, because responsible local exercise is vital for mental health, which doesn't seem to have been a consideration recently. I apprectiate officials have so much to deal with, and need simple slogans, but stil...

Susan said...

I, too, am concerned about the “Stay at Home” period commands, even as I recognize the necessity of drawing a firm line right now—too many folks are still not getting it, at least where we live. Friends in NYC, many much older than I am, have it even worse—I am sure this is true your way, too. They live in very small apartments, have no reachable access to low density outdoor space, and no longer can avail themselves of exercise classes and other regimens at gyms. This will have to be attended to to avoid serious ancillary physical and mental health problems as much as possible. Meantime, your lovely post was excellent for mental health, so thank you once again!

David said...

Yes. I wish the message could be 'Stay at home, but try to get your once-a-day exercise'. The mental health aspect is being more or less ignored, and there will be deaths from suicide if people in a fragile state of mind feel compelled not to move. I know from my depressive spells many years back now, thank God, that forcing myself to go out for a daily walk saved me - banished the anxiety, if only temporarily, and tired me out so that I would at least sleep until the early morning.

Anyway, I think I've written this before, but having the spring ahead of us and not a decline into winter is already a plus on the mental-health front.

Josie Holford said...

Gorgeous photos. A feast for the eyes.
And here is a poem for you - a reminder of the once and future world:

Small Kindnesses
By Danusha Laméris

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

David said...

Just wonderful, Josie, thank you so much. I liked this positivity, with countless cited examples, from George Monbiot, not always a favourite: So I posted it on LinkedIn, and you should have seen the negativists and whataboutists weighing in. All had points to make, but none relevant to the article.

Robin Weiss said...

David, I admire yor botanical knowledge!

Your not-quite-a-goldfinch is, in my opinion, a male chaffinch with its blue-grey nape and striped wings. Bigger than the goldfinch; a different repetitive song, rather than the goldfinch's twitter.

I love the contralto of blackbirds and the coloratura of song thrushes.

That's 3 of us who are fans of Darwin: you, David Damant and me! A year ago, I gave a talk on Darwin and Darwinism to the U3A Easter Conference on "Upsetting the Applecart". I'll forward my Powerpoints by email in case you're interested.

David said...

Darwin must have been a lovable man: I get that impression from what little I've read about him (but having read quite a bit of him, I love his gentle persuasiveness). Down House is a delight. I look forward to seeing the powerpoints.

And thanks for the chaffinch. Very common, I read, but I don't think I've noted one before.

David said...

Just a quick look through the powerpoint pages shows me that you've been to Down House. It all looks beguiling and will need proper digestion. A good revision course for me, no doubt with lots I don't know. Thank you.

David Damant said...

Darwin's greatness as a scientist ( and intellectually in general) was his amazing concentration on the pursuit of truth. Not only the thoughts of others but especially his own were not accepted until the evidence was clear. In this he was relentless, as one can see from the Origin, and from his letters. In a sense this objectivity was a moral quality. One has only to look around today to see the opposite qualities, of prejudice, and ( so often) of starting from the desired conclusion, and that can have moral as well as intellectual consequences.

David said...

Serendipity: on this day in 1859, Charles Darwin sent his publishers the first three chapters of On the Origin of Species.

David Damant said...

Darwin wrote the Origin in " thirteen months and ten days of hard labour". I think that this intense and speedy writing ( of course he had it all in his head or at easy reference) explains the fluency and elegance of the style. Like The Decline and Fall, where Gibbon rewrote the first two chapters a number of times and then did not look at what he had written until he received the proofs. Another guest for your supper party ?

Colin Dunn said...

Hello David

Thank you for this glorious review of these two wondrous gardens. The fritillary meadown is so easily overlooked so thank you for taking photographs of it. One day I'd love to plant them in a lawn and enjoy their reappearances year after year. Charles Rennie Mackintosh painted one near the end of his life and its in that work that your description of snakeskin patterns is particularly apt.

David said...

Good to hear from you, Colin, and yes, I always loved that Rennie Mackintosh image - remember buying it in greeting-cared form and sending at least three copies. We have an amazing meadow of fritillaries, grape hyacinths and daffodils on the swards outside a nearby council estate. In our own back yard, quite extraordinary. I planted some in windowboxes but they've never flourished.