Daily Archives: September 27, 2011

Kew Gardens Mystery

sketch of calabash

"Green, hard, and big as your head", by Kerry McFall, colored pencil & ink

We set off to Kew Gardens on Saturday morning on the bus, where an elderly lady told Griff that the palace was a “rip off” but the gardens were worth the price of admission.  Which is saying something, because it wasn’t cheap – 27 pounts, or $42.   We’ve gotten spoiled because all of the museums are free, so paying admission seemed somehow unfair.  Luckily, Griff had found a half off coupon online.  But she was right – the Victorian “glass houses” were gorgeous, filled with exotic plants, and the grounds go on and on forever, lush grasses, ancient trees, the occasional golden pheasant or peacock.  The Palm House was full of – you guessed it, palms – and the Mystery of the Day.  I sat to sketch this mysterious plant mostly because there was a bench nearby, but also because it was intriguing.  As I worked, literally dozens of people came by to touch it, to hold it, (to hang on it in the case of several little boys…), to marvel and wonder.  At the base of the tree in question, there were several tags saying “ananas”, which means pineapple, referring to the little spiky plants that filled in around the tree trunk.  The tiny tag for the Mystery Plant was tucked away behind one of the ananas spikes, two inches by two inches at most…. Calabash.  Doesn’t that just reek of Ali Baba and the Arabian Nights? 

The only flies (pun intended) in the Kew ointment were the noisy planes.  Evidently it is directly in the flight path to Heathrow, and a jumbo “fly” buzzed us at very low altitude every minute.  Griff timed it.  Which kind of took away a bit from the elegant setting of the Temperate House:

sketch of glass house

"Temperate House, Kew", by Kerry McFall, mixed media

 Apologies to the architects in the audience – I didn’t quite get the perspective right, but hey – it was threatening to rain, so I had to hurry!

We agreed that our favorite part of Kew Gardens, though, was the gallery of Marianne North, a woman who painted and sketched around the world in the late 1800’s.  She hung literally hundreds of her paintings one inch apart all over the walls of a small building built just for that purpose.  She went to basically every continent and captured the landscape in vivid color before photography was available, so her works have been valuable references now for decades.  A new heroine for me!