Has this been the best year ever for Kew’s magnolias? It doesn’t really matter; last Friday they were sublime, under an azure sky with the proper proportion of fluffy white clouds, and an improper one of big shiny aeroplanes. The air was balmy, the breeze just enough to dislodge a petal here and there to brush past you on its way to lie at your feet. You must hold one to your cheek; there is nothing softer or cooler.
In the woodland garden the breeze jostled the white erythroniums from Oregon. Some pointilliste had filled a meadow with purple and white fritillaries. In the alpine house Tulipa sosnowskyi from the Caucasus was in orange and yellow flame. By the lecture rooms the huge bones of Eucalyptus dalrympleana shone white in the sun. Congested green flowers burst out of maples, embryo catkins from wingnuts, and tiny green points of leaf everywhere. All too soon? When times are out of joint like this is it is difficult not to feel a little surge of panic. Is this thrilling performance the swan song?
But then Kew induces the sense of a Grand Order of Being. Every plant is listed and assigned a place. At Kew God proposes, man disposes.