Kew Gardens

Peter Cole (
Sat, 08 Jul 1995 22:43:12 GMT

I visited Kew Gardens last weekend (first time ever,) and spent a
very pleasant day pottering around the grounds and the various 'houses.
I have to say though, I was a little surprised to find quite a few of
the CPs looking rather neglected - hardly a Ping in sight, swamped by
the largest mass of liverworts I have ever seen - the couple of struggling
esseriana and moranensis that were still visible didn't look like they
would hold out for long. The D. californica were quite large, but looked
unhappy (understandable I guess in a warm greenhouse with no visible
means of cooling the roots.) Most of the D. capensis looking very ill
(how did they do that??) and U. sandersonii almost extinguished by the
aforementioned liverworts. They all looked too dry to me. My heart went
out to an ailing U. reneformis wilting in a small pool.

In fairness, many of the Sarracenias were healthy and vigorous, and
the D. regia were beautiful - I haven't seen this species before in the
flesh, but now I have, I've *got* to have one :) The N. alata and
X mixta were impressive too - it's nice to see large specimens of plants
you usually only see trimmed down in terraria here, though they could do
with a trim to remove many crispy pitchers.

I don't know why it is that most CP displays seem to be less well
cared for than other types of plants - the botanical gardens here in
Swansea have a miserable bed of mixed plants, kept too dry in full shade,
which die and are replaced with bought-in stock with depressing regularity.
I don't know why they bother - I'd give up if I couldn't grow my plants
better than that. And most botanical collections I've seen are not a
great deal better. They just don't hold a candle to the plants I've seen
in private collections (including my own, IMHO,) or commercial nurseries.
I know CPs are a minor field in the grand scheme of botanical science, but
it's not as if the likes of D. capensis and U. sandersonii are difficult
to grow. Many other 'obscure' plants like orchids are well-cared for and
present stunningly, despite being (I suspect,) often harder species to
grow successfully.

So yes, I was a bit disappointed with the Kew CPs - they have obviously
gone to the effort of building a special annexe for them on the 'Princess
of Wales' greenhouse and planting it up with a good selection of plants,
but with the 'wall-to-wall' liverworts, dryness and quantity of dead plant
material in the middle of the growing season, as well as erratic labelling
and apparent neglect, they didn't seem to me to compare well with all the
non-CPs in other areas or do justice to Kew's reputation as a centre of
botanical excellence.

Oh well, not all doom and gloom - it was a very pleasant day, and I'd
wholeheartedly recommend the place in general terms (I suspect you'd need
a week to see it all :) THe palm house is magnificent, architecturally as
well as in it's contents, and the 'Princess of Wales' is amazing with 10
different climatic zones (and record-breaking amazonian water lilies.)
The 'Evolution House' is well-presented too, with displays detailing the
evolution of plant life from slime to trees.

Happy growing,