Monday, August 1, 2011

Waterlily House, Kew Gardens

On Saturday I was back in Kew Gardens, where I spent a lovely afternoon wandering around with a cousin, enjoying constant surprizes looking at wonderful trees. I will write about some of the trees I saw another time, but now I want to share my enchantment with the Waterlily House which we just managed to see before it closed.

This beautiful glasshouse was originally built in 1852 to house a giant Amazon waterlily- Victoria amazonica- which, in fact, never flourished there. After becoming a tropical habitat for a time, in 1865 it was devoted to medicinal and culinary plants. Finally, in 1991, it reverted back to its original use and now- as Kew's most humid environment- houses a magic collection of tropical ornamental aquatic plants and climbers. I am going to concentrate on the Waterlilies themselves, that overwhelmed me, covering the circular pond with a fantastic pattern of leaves and exotic flowers:

These wondrous, circular flan-like leaves are those of Victoria cruziana, which has here replaced Victoria amazonica. Air-trapping ribbing on their undersides enables their buoyancy.

I love the way the flowers are always elegantly 'placed' in relation to the leaves- giving the appearance of having been carefully positioned there by a perfectionist designer:

Although the reflections of the glass panes break the illusion of a romantic lake, the grid effect is a good foil to the plants' organic delicacy:

And I delight in the many, often subtle, variations- in both patterning and shape- of the lily pads:

There is a simplicity and purity about both the leaves and the flowers that is captivating.

Although I said I would concentrate on the waterlilies, I must include these extraordinary, totally mad plants, growing by the walkway following the perimeter of the pond:

I have not yet found out the name of these last plants- perhaps you can enlighten me?

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