My last day in England was breezy, a mixture of sun and clouds but, most of all, DRY. It was a perfect day to visit Kew Gardens. I went first to the Xstrata treetop walkway, with some trepidation. Walking along the treetops is a very appealing concept, but a bit scary in reality. The 118 steps up were fine, but looking down was definitely a bad idea.
I did manage to take some pictures, then walked carefully down, gripping the handrail the entire time. I'm sorry to tell you that, two stairways from the ground, a small child ran down behind me and shrieked randomly, causing me to blurt, "Jesus Christ!" We both stared at each other, then continued on our separate ways.
The rest of the day was much calmer. Took a garden tour with one of the docents, who led us to the Palm House and through several other conservatories dedicated to Alpine plants and to a variety of climates that showed off desert plants, ferns, and rock garden plants. She also told us about the catastrophic hurricane that struck England in 1987 and destroyed 15 million trees, including hundreds at Kew. The good news is that one of their oldest trees, first planted in 1798, which had been looking "sulky" according to the guide, perked right up after its root ball was lifted up by the storm. Apparently the aeration was just what it needed, and they've been aerating their mature trees ever since.
After lunch, I wandered through the order beds, which are very much a work in progress, then to the first-year vegetable gardens. It seems that it's quite competitive to enter the three-year garden school at Kew - only 15 are accepted - and part of their first year's progress is measured by the vegetable gardens they create. I was impressed by all of them.
Next up were the Duke's gardens, perennial borders in the good old style. After that, on to Kew Palace, the somewhat forlorn home of the late lamented George III, he of the American revolution and the madness (actually caused by porphyria). The Queen's garden was quite formal, the kitchen garden a delight.
A restorative cup of tea and cake (what will happen to me??), then a walk to the Sackler Crossing over the lake, filled with water fowl including a swan and her teenage children.
A peek into Evolution House (tracing the evolution of plants from algae to stromatolites, to ferns and so forth), then a stroll through the Temperate House (world's largest indoor plant), and a wander back toward the entrance. Read for a bit under a catalpa tree to gather my strength, then left around 5:00 for the slow tube home.