England’s Finest Gardens & Chelsea Flower Show 2009
May 19th – 27th, 2009

Monday, May 25th, 2009

We had arranged a special treat for the group this morning, so right after breakfast we all met and walked over to the Kensington Roof Gardens. We were very lucky indeed as these are private, owned by Virgin and there was an opening. I had never seen these gardens before, tried too, but it was always booked with some reception or dinner. This is a posh nightclub of sorts and they do special events. It is really three gardens in one and incredible! Flamingos are named Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks. This was owned by Derry & Toms in 1933 and was a department store and is now part of the Virgin Limited Edition Retreats. There are more than 70 full size trees here.

Then it was off to Kew Gardens. This time I visited Kew Palace as it was the first time open in many years. Then the private gardens around the Palace. I have been to Kewy many times over the years so you will also find many more pictures in our Pix area. In mid-spring, the Cherry Walk, with 300,000 scillas planted beneath its trees, can be stunning, along with the total of more than 900,000 wild daffodils, crocuses and snake's head fritillaries planted between the Lilac Garden and the Magnolia Collection, both in glorious flower. The spring bedding outside the Palm House is a definite must-see, and elsewhere, crab apple trees and wisterias are in flower.

Notable plants that you must seek out while here are:

Wollemia nobilis
One of the oldest known tree species in the world, the Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) was recently discovered alive and well in a deep, impenetrable gorge, west of Sydney, Australia. You can see a Wollemi pine close to the Orangery at Kew Gardens,

Tulip Trees, Liriodendron tulipifera & Liriodendron chinense
The North American species of tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, was first introduced to Britain in 1688 and a specimen planted in the 1770’s still grows in the Azalea Garden off Princess Walk. The Chinese tulip tree, Liriodendron chinense, a far superior species,
wasn’t introduced until 1901 by Ernest Wilson.

Jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys
With its long hanging stems of jade-green flowers, the jade vine is one of the most beautiful and elegant of all tropical vines. You can see a jade vine in the Asian (northern) wing of the Palm House And here is a plant close to my heart now:

The Panama hat plant (Carludovica palmata) has palm-like leaves but is, in fact, not a palm at all but belongs to an unrelated family, Cyclanthaceae. It reaches 1-2 m in height, with a short stem not evident above the ground. The young leaves are collected and then carefully washed, dried, bleached and plaited to make Panama hats; it takes roughly six leaves to make one hat. The name 'Panama hat' is a misnomer as most are made in Ecuador (four million annually), with a few being made in Colombia and Peru. The name was applied by Europeans as the hats were first exported from Panama. You can see a Panama hat plant in the Palm House. http://www.kew.org/places/kew/index.html



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