Anytime is a good time to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew to see trees and this visit in October 2021 coincided with the Japan Festival. It has been a real inspiration to walk around during my career in arboriculture over the past 20 years and it is fascinating to watch the trees grow and develop as part of the evolution of the grounds. I try to visit at least twice a year if not more, as each time you visit there is something of interest whether its trees coming into bud, flowering, producing seeds and berries or autumn colour or their winter silhouettes. There are trees of all shapes and sizes and I try to visit the bonsai collection as well, and this year some of the bonsai trees from the collection were being displayed in the Victorian Glasshouse as part of the Japan Festival.
Bonsai at Kew
The bonsai collection at Kew contains around 60 bonsai trees, and it is set out behind the new Alpine House in a quiet corner of Kew gardens near the School of Horticulture. It is a modest collection on display but this forms part of Kew’s wider bonsai tree collection. Many of the trees on display were donated by Ruth Stafford-Jones in 2001 and more recently acquired trees are also on display from well known bonsai nurseries like Windybank. They are looked after by Kew’s very own bonsai specialist Richard Kernick and it was great to see a bonsai collection at Kew.
As part of the Japan Festival celebrations inside the Victorian Glass House was Chiharu Shiota’s spectacular One Thousand Springs display of 5,000 haikus suspended in a web of red threads. Also a stunning and colourful Chrysanthemum display of Japan’s national flower and a chalk garden with Japanese planting. I also took advantage of a tour round the Japanese Landscape gardens within the grounds.
This is a fabulous way to get a good look at a trees at canopy height by taking a walk around the treetop walk which has been a great installation at Kew, expanding visitors ways of experiencing trees from different vantage points.
Species highlights for me
Trees are so amazing for so many reasons and everyone has their own views on them. For me some of my favourite trees are for differing reasons based on their features or characteristics like the highly fissured bark on the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), or the autumn colour of Maples. I am in awe of the Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba) due to the sheer longevity of the species as well as the stunning bi-lobed leaf and yellow autumn colour and was lucky enough to see some very mature specimens in Japan and China on my travels. The Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is another beautiful ornamental species with a solid but unusual leaf shape and gorgeous tulip flowers. Here are a few I was fortunate enough to see this visit.