You’re all itching to learn

You’re all itching to learn what I did on Sunday, aren’t you? I can tell these things – you’re so transparent.
Well, I hauled my arse out of bed far to early in the day for what should have been a leisurely Sunday, and took the train via Littlehampton, Clapham and Richmond to Kew Gardens, where I met up with long-time e-chum Rachel. After coffee and peoplewatching in the Kew Greenhouse cafe by the station, we ambled down to the gardens themselves. As you might expect, I’m a hardened Kew veteran, but it was Rachel’s first visit, so we started out by heading around the front of Museum Number 1 and the lake to the Princess of Wales House, where a fantastic display of orchids, both plants and cut flowers, were on display as part of the Ninth Annual Kew Orchid Festival. Even horticultural luddites should find something there of interest, and it’s on until 16 March, so try to get there if you have the opportunity.
The Princess of Wales House is an impressive structure with advanced climate control systems that result in each "room" mimicking different climatic conditions, allowing a massive variety of plants to be grown under one roof. But, for me, it doesn’t have the great romance that the other houses at Kew have. So, after walking through the Rock Garden (too early to see much here) and the Order Beds (the area for hortigeeks™) we ambled up to the Palm House. It’s an utterly fantastic building, full of lush sweaty greenness. We walked around the floor level, the marine display in the old boiler rooms in the basement and enjoyed the unique views that can be had on the upper walkway.
After a break for lunch, we took in the Temperate House. Again, a detailed exploration was called for, at both ground and upper levels. Rachel produced her camera and got this particularly gruesome picture of me with Rhododendron veitchianum.

I got some pics too, but they are on film, so will have to wait for processing and scanning.
The thing with Kew is that there is just soooo much. We headed on to the Evolution House (which I remember as the Australian House in my youth), the Holly Collection, the Japanese Garden, the Pagoda, Syon Vista, the Orangery, the Ice House and finally back to the bookshop (which was little disappointing). We rewarded our efforts as we left the gardens at sunset by heading to a nearby pub for refreshment, before saying goodbye and heading back home.
An excellent day – getting some good horticultural therapy in at a great gardening mecca, plus some good exercise walking all around the extensive gardens and arboretum – all in the company of a good friend. Can’t ask for more than that, I reckon.