The garden of Kew

Akham Bonbirdhwaja Singh

Who has not heard of the Kew Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden of England at London Borough of Richmond on Thames. Richmond is one of the 32 boroughs of London and Greater London (a borough is a district of London having its own Local self Government). Kew is just a few kilometres from the Richmond train station. The word Kewis said to have come from Cayho a combination of two words: the Old French kai, (landing place; "quay" derives from this) and Old English hoh (spur of land). The land spur is formed by the bend in the Thames. It is perhaps the most famous botanical garden in the world in terms of its content and variety. In extent it is the largest botanical garden to be followed by the botanical garden of Berlin (?). It is a pretty old Botanic garden by any standards but not the oldest of course, the Botanical Garden of Padua (Italy) being the oldest. Its setting is also pretty good, the river Thames taking a detour there (most of the landmarks of London are by the side of Thames). It’s a dream for most of the students of Botany and Forestry to visit and see the garden in their lifetime.
I came here once in 2020, in May and in the midst of pandemic and it was closed. I never thought that the pandemic would assume such magnitude and sabotage my Kew plan. Of course, sometimes, the best laid plan of men can go awry. Any way I came and I stood there. The high walls do not allow anybody even to peep inside, only tall trees nearby could be seen and some identifiable buildings of course. The tall pagoda and some part on the other side of the wall also could be seen from a distance. From the two main gates, when I looked inside, it was in pitiable shape, nothing of the famous sort of Kew; with the strong winds it had a few days back, all the leaves fallen in late spring coupled with unswept and un maintained entrance and unkempt office fronts, it was a pathetic sight. My dream picture of Kew was not there. The picture that my former boss painted in my mind was nowhere. Even if I knew that the look was due to non-maintenance due to pandemic, still I could not help despair seeping in to me; one due to the looks that was in front of me and the other one was the feeling of so near yet so far. And it was not certain if I would ever come again here to see it again and it was not helping either. I had to turn back full of disappointment. Had to go back far with inconvenient connectivity, had to change bus three times and I was not too familiar with bus routes, I was staying in Cheam area under London Borough of Sutton on the southern side of Thames in the outskirts.
This time I am here in Kew, once again, this time in the month of October. May in fact is the best time to see Kew, being late spring most of the flowering trees shall be full of life and blooming. In temperate countries, late spring is the best time to visit nature and enjoy its landscape. With Cherries, Plums, crab apple, goat willow and most of rosaceae trees flowering, the crinum and irises blooming, the undeniable and unmistakable daffodils painting roadsides and glens with their flamboyant yellow flowers any landscape would be beautiful here. Oaks are plenty too. But I will tell you, late autumn is not too bad either. With the fall season, the trees begin to transform into tapestry of colours and paints the landscape with magical colours. In fact the autumnal change of colours of trees always appeals, may be more to me. Here in Kew, I cannot say that autumn is the most spectacular season, but it is not bad. Not the flowers, in autumn, it is the leaves which do the trick. The squirrels are in hundreds busy stockpiling the acorns for the long winter. With the nip of winter in the air, the leaves displaying colours of vibrant red, yellow and smooth gold, very much insta-friendly scape if moments of autumn are captured. With tens of thousands of plants and trees from far and wide, collected from all nooks and corners of the globe, plants of all colours and hues are around. I believe that the days of British Empire helped a lot in making such a wide collection.
Why autumn is so spectacular in temperate areas ? In autumn there is hormonal change triggered by shorter days and longer nights as the summer comes to an end and temperature dips. The abscission layer develops and blocks flow to leaves and back and chemicals in leave gets stuck. Ultimately, the leave would fall off as the abscission layer is fully developed. But, the process is slow in temperate region taking weeks and hence, the leaves continue to display different shades of colour for the entire autumn.
(To be contd)