Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Trip Abroad

When I was seventeen, I went to England, Wales and Ireland with my parents. We spent three weeks traveling that spring, a trip I'll not soon forget. While driving through Ireland (we're Irish), on the way to a country inn, we were broadsided. I remember the car spinning around, as if in slow motion-thinking "I'm a thousand miles from home, and my parents are dead..". They did not die that day, but it was a bad wreck. The other car was bloody and totaled, but they were alive. I'll never forget that surreal experience, of time in slow motion. The last week of the trip was spent in and around London. The highlight of the trip was the incredible Kew gardens. I had read and studied the famed grounds, but this was my first visit.I was in plant junkie heaven, a huge smile plastered on my face, I'm sure.I can not express how amazing this place is for me, the holy plant grail. I methodically went through the collection, not wanting to miss a thing. After the first day, my parents went about their business, of museums and meetings-I went back for the next two days in complete bliss. By far the most superb sections were the Rock Gardens and the adjoining Alpine collection. I felt like I had stepped into a fairyland of colors shapes and plant forms. I spent the entire day there, talking with one of the curators of the collection. He told me that the Alpines were the most specialized of Kew's collections, and I sure believed him! He was gracious enough to take me behind the scenes to see more rarefied plants in their collection. To this day, I have vivid memories of that place of dreams even, of the benches covered with the most amazing life forms-all in small Lilliputian pots, double lined with granite and feldspar chips. The air was fresh and buoyant, not the heavy humidity you feel in some greenhouses. We went to Port Marion in Wales, spending the last weekend, hiking around the grounds and discovering hidden niches and shell covered grottoes on the hillside over looking the "bay"(inlet?). The grounds had wonderful urns filled with specimen fuchsias, obviously over wintered in some hidden glasshouse on the grounds. At one time in my twenties, I had amassed a collection of twenty five or thirty varieties that I displayed in a great glassed in porch in a pre-war building in Kansas City(MO).Now Fuchsias and heat don't get on well, you cannot forget to water or you have dead plants, and fast! Fuchsias are great plants to train-standards, fans,pyramids etc.The more care and feeding, the better they look.If you grow fuchsias, the hummingbirds will thank you...

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