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Plants in the Alpine House or Cold Frame: November at Kew

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Started by: Jon Evans

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Contribution from Jon Evans 21 November 2008, 15:52top / bottom of page

Having been meaning to visit Kew again ever since my last visit in April, primarily to see the Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition, and the exhibition of botanical art from the collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood, I finally managed to visit last week, on the first sunny day for weeks.

I was disappointed to find that the Garden Photographer exhibition had finished the previous week, and that the exhibit in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery was being changed over, but it was a beautiful day, and the gardens were full of autumn colour, providing plenty of photographic opportunities.

My stroll round the garden eventually brought me to the glass houses the water lily house inside...

...and out

...past a very eye-catching climber in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Ipomaea horsfalliae v. briggsii

...and thence to the rock garden, where there was a surprising amount of autumn colour (polygonum leaves).

The garden seems to enjoy a very temperate climate these days, perhaps because of the urban warming, and both Nerine undulata

and Nerine alta were flourishing in well drained locations

along with Oxalis hirta Gotenborg form, which I for one have never tried outside.

The Alpine House

I expected little to be in flower in the alpine house, but found it a profusion of colour. Admittedly many of the plants were from the southern hemisphere, mainly South African and South American bulbs, and possibly not very alpine for the catholic taste, but these plants are now widely grown by members of our society with more liberal tastes.

Narcissus papyraceus

Oxalis massoniana

Oxalis imbricata - I have never managed to persuade it to flower.

These big pans plunged in the display beds form a magnificent spectacle, and are much more pleasing to the eye, and camera, than the ranks of pots on benches in a conventional alpine house display. Around them, plants are starting to get established in the permanent tufa components of the display. Here Dictyolimon macrorrhabdos.

Helianthemum almeriensis

Sternbergia candida

Among the bulbs was the best pan of Sternbergia candida I have ever seen here are the first two flowers to open, but there was a profusion of buds - it should be wonderful by now.

Sternbergia candida
Ipheion and Nothoscordum

Also on display were a wide selection of unusual South American ipheion and nothoscordum. Here is Ipheion sessile

Ipheion and Nothoscordum

Nothoscordum andicolum

Nothoscordum montevidense

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