Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Exotic Gardens

There is no better place to escape British weather than an exotic garden. I can still remember a visit to Kew Gardens when I was around 16 years old - we had been living in Malaysia and the dreary, cold, wet English summer we encountered was a great shock. It was such a relief to slip into the waterlily house to soak up some steamy tropical warmth.

On my recent visit to Glasgow the weather was particularly abysmal, so a friend and I escaped to the botanical garden. Kibble Palace, the larger greenhouse, was restored not so long ago and it is a lovely place to wander on a wet day. They specialise in Australasian tree ferns, but I was particularly taken by other plants with wonderful colours and textures. I can never remember plant names, so I'll just make up my own.

I call this one the bottlebrush plant

This one should be called the stegosauras plant

My favorite part of a botanic garden is usually the cactus & succulent house, but this time I would vote for the carniverous plant room. The colours and shapes of the pitchers plants were stunning (I'd love to knit something in this colour combination).

And I discovered that pitcher plants produce flowers!

The following weekend we visited my husband's family in Suffolk, and his mother arranged for us to go visit Henstead exotic garden near the coast. This garden was built from scratch by an amateur gardener, and is only open for private visits and on specially arranged open days. The plants, landscaping and buildings were particularly impressive considering the owner had done everything by himself (with a bit of help from friends) with no outside funding. The area near the Suffolk coast enjoys a temperate microclimate, so many of the exotics plants are able to survive winters outdoors; the more delicate plants have to be stored in a polytunnel during colder weather. Here are some of my favourite shots:

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'nigrescens', or Black lilyturf

lily pond with Leycesteria formosa, or Himalayan honeysuckle

Impressive array of colours and textures - this garden peaks in late Autumn
I'm going to have to brush up on my plant terminology so I can keep track of the plants I see in gardens for future reference - who knows, some day I might actually be able to grow a decorative garden of my own.

I'll leave you with one more photo - a structure in the garden which is a pretty unusual sight in contemporary Britain:

An outhouse - and I actually got to use it!