Friday, July 5, 2013

Brought to you by the letter KEW

Track 7/05: Radiohead: "Motion Picture Soundtrack"

Kew may not be a letter, but it IS a place: Kew Gardens. This 300 acre site is home to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Palace, the Marianne North Gallery, Queen Charlotte's cottage and other such wonders. Kew Palace was the summer residence of George II and the the flora is owed to his son, Prince Frederick and Princess Augusta, the latter of whom is credited with being the founder of the Royal Botanic Gardens as she intended to collect all plants in the known world. Prince Frederick predeceased George II, thus upon his death in 1760, the throne was passed to Frederick's eldest son, known as ("mad") King George III, later dubbed 'Farmer George' due to his love of agriculture. Kew Palace, the smallest of all the English royal palaces, was his favorite home.

Though the Gardens passed to government ownership in the 1840's, the tradition of building a global collection is still upheld. One current goal is to collect 25% of seed varieties in the world by 2020. In fact, seed banking is a major activity of their operation as they have dry frozen storage underground in Sussex which constitutes a collection of Kew's library, along with their "living collections" - the plants themselves! Much research is done here studying DNA of plants and all themes botanical and ecological in nature. This is fascinating from a library science perspective as it represents how unique collections can be in such a library, as well as the very specific research areas the librarians must specialize in.

This lily pad has a diameter of over 4 feet!

One of my favorite things at Kew was the Marianne North Gallery which was opened in 1882, and contains 833 botanical paintings by this artist that cover nearly every inch of the wall. (No pictures allowed in here!). It took an hour tube ride to get out to Kew Gardens, but it was well worth the visit, and after 5 hours I think I only managed to see about half of the property!

The 'mokey puzzle' or Chile pine.
These are the 'leaves' of this conifer




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