Tropical Nursery tour at Kew Gardens

Special orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew
Special orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew

I noticed on the Ian visits website that there were tours round the Kew gardens tropical nursery so I sent an e-mail off on Thursday but didn’t get a reply the next day so I tried again on Friday. By lunch time I had decided that I not got a place but when on checking my e-mail I noticed that there was a reply from the lady at Kew . It said i should phone her back by 12 o’clock so it looked like it was a bit late however on rereading the e-mail I noticed that it said call by 12 o’clock or just turn up on the day so that’s what I decided to do.

I was up at a reasonable spent hour an tinkering around on the computer then headed off to buy the M25 about town 2 o’clock writing good time on 11 o’clock at the Ferry lane car park. The parking machines were solar powered and apparently there was not enough sun to power them so I had to get the parking ticket at the entrance booths. It is not cheap getting into Kew gardens it cost me £7 to park and £16 50 to get into the gardens on top of that I was having to pay £10 for the tour, however they have been in the new recently due to funding issues so they need all the support they can get.

The squirrel that thought I was a tree

The weather was sunny and warm a coat was not necessary iI spent a couple of hours wandering around the park looking at spring flowers taking photos then I stopped off at the Victoria gate cafe for lunch. I have a packet of crisps and a hummus, beetroot and carrot sandwich which was very nice I took them and found a bench in the sun to eat it, as the cafe was heaving with people. There was plenty of wildlife about particularly birds, I spotted lots of Ringed-necked Parakeet, Greater Spotted wood pecker and a couple of Jays. As I was walking along the edge of the lake I spotted a fat looking squirrel eating a nut sat on a branch of a bush. I stood and watched tit for a while it seemed quite tame and I was able to get within 2 metre of it. The it moved towards me ran up my leg and and then onto my rucksack had a look around realised there was nothing to eat then head back down the way it had come.

I took the long route round to the White Peaks cafe and shop which was the agreed meet up for the special tour of the Tropical nursery. I arrived at the allotted time and we hung around for 10 minutes, then the nice volunteer took all 9 of us into the largest green house in a botanical park in, I’m not sure if she said United Kingdom, Europe or the World. In any case it was very extensive. The tour was very informative and the works had left out examples of Succulent, Carnivorous, rare and Orchid plants which the guide knew all about, and was very good and explaining to us. After the tour I headed home.

Sample of succulent plants in the Tropical Nursery Kew
Inside the Tropical Nursery Kew

A very nice lunch at Wisley RHS

Back of Wisley house

We had a Sunday to ourselves and following a recommendation from my parents, I suggested Wisley RHS might be worth a try. The weather forecast was overcast with a promise of some breaks on the could and it was the middle of winter, not the best time to visit a garden, but we threw caution to the wind.

I picked Helen up after church at about 1020 then we headed off around the M25, the road to all venues. I missed the turning off of the A3 so we had the pleasure of visiting a plane called Burpham! The detour was slight and we were soon parking up. Given the time of year the car park was surprisingly busy we were in the last few rows of the third and final car park.

Butterfly in the glasshouse at Wisley

I had checked out the membership options on the RHS site, and enquired whether the single membership which allowed for a “family guest” would stretch to letting the wife in, it did so £42 later I had one year’s entrance. Given that adults pay £12 all I had to do was to visit twice on my own or once more with Helen and we were quids in.

We took a look at the map and decided that the cafe at the far side of the entrance was the place to head for as it was more or less coffee time. The cafe was heaving by the time we got there it seemed like every Londoner had decided to have coffee or lunch at the Wisley RHS cafe. We did however manage to find a table inside amongst the screaming 5 year olds. The coffee and walnut cake was great shared with Helen and the cappuccino was good.

Our next stop would be the glass houses where they had a special feature for the winter, butterflies from exotic lands were in one section. The queue sign suggested a 20 minute wait did not seem like too long, so we waited and it did not. The man controlling the entry said the sun had made the glasshouse hot so people were moving though quite quickly. Once in it was great there were lots of different types of butterfly, most of them much larger than the British varieties. They seemed quite tame too, sitting on leaves and allow me to take their photos.

View of the green houses of Wisley

From the glass house we headed up hill towards the apple tree collection, at the top there is a great view over the site. From there we headed kind of back towards the entrance. We looked in on the alpine area and I took a pan of the small glass house. The bonsai were interesting nearly all were over 50 years old and one was 150 years old, clearly not a hobby you should start a when you’re tire if you want to see the results of your efforts. The veg growing area was impressive and almost inspired me to sort out my two metre square patch at home.

We headed toward the restaurant and cafe for some lunch, it was about 13:10 and the food hall was Ramos but once we had got some food we found a whole courtyard in the the sun where no one wanted to sit, we had the place to ourselves then shared it with another couple. The food we chose was Parmesan butternut squash baked in filo pastry with a celeriac and beetroot coleslaw and a couscous salad, it went down a treat.

Unusual red flower Wisley

After lunch we wandered towards a bird hide in a far corner of the site, where the pines and heather collections are. On the way I suggested that we might see a ringed neck parakeet and would you believe it about a minute later one flew over and perched in a tree ahead. For once I had my binoculars with me and we got a good look. I have seen enough now to be able identify them was they fly over, with tree long tails and fast fighter jet like flight. There is a public footpath that runs through that part of the park and the park path goes under a bridge to allow the path to be bordered by chain link fence and barbed wired, then strangely at the other end you can get into the park with just a sign suggesting you should not and a couple of CCTV cameras as a deterrent.

We had to exit via the gift shop which was very comprehensive, and had a good book department which along with all the other tut meant that Helen spent some time browsing then spending (ed: Helen was ushered too fast out of said gift shop!).  I did buy a device that allows eggs to be decapitated. The journey home was smooth and without traffic issues, we chose the M40 Beaconsfield route just for a change. I will look forward to visiting again throughout the year to see how the plants and flowers change throughout.