February 18, 2019
They can outshine the snowdrops – literally, since their pale lilac petals shimmer in the sun. They are sundials, though: no sun, they are mum. Crocus tommasinianus – let’s call them Tommies – are taking over, popping up everywhere, spreading like ….. wildflowers. Even at Kew.
We have a regular date at Kew in mid-February. We head straight in from the Victoria Gate towards where the magnolias are pale bare skeletons, where an immense mauve carpet under the trees shines like a lilac (or is lavender?) sea. I have photos of it going back for years.
Now it seems the gardeners have realized what a draw it is: it is replicated here and there round the gardens – but it clearly needs no help. Seedlings are scattered far and wide, dotting the shrub beds, the great brown circles of mulch under the trees, in the rockery and even the walled garden where the order beds keep rigid discipline. The little devils giggle at botanical austerity. Are they the only officially classified weed with an Award of Garden Merit?
Kew was packed at the weekend. Half an hour before opening time the queue stretched a hundred yards down Richmond Road. The big attraction was the Colombian Carnival. The northern tip of South America is apparently the most densely biodiverse country on earth, with both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, rising in the Andes to 5000 metres. The carnival was all about its richly various indigenous orchids, displayed with extraordinary artistry in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, to the sound of drummers and the scents of some pretty biodiverse food.
What would Joseph Hooker have said, I asked myself. Hallelujah, I hope – to both the Tommies and the drums.