All lit up Posted on November 26, 2013

To Kew to se what autumn fruit and colour has been spared by two weeks of cold and windy weather. Grey is the colour of the season – indoors as well as out, it seems. We see it in furnishings, in fashionable décor (Nina Campbell’s new book Interiors is full of grey, and so is our son’s new house.) Is grey the new cream?

And yesterday it was the theme in Kew Gardens, remaining leaves now only scattered patches of warmth. But what warmth! How is it that the yellows ands reds of autumn generate their own wattage? It feels (perhaps it is) lighter under a yellow sweet chestnut or an orange beech than under the open sky.. These were the trees providing the warmest patches; most of the maples were bare. I had to cross a lawn near the Palm House to identify a small tree that formed a neat tower of deep scarlet: Malus trilobata from the Eastern Med. One to note.

But the gardens were full of activity – and electricity. They were preparing for the Christmas illuminated trail, a mile of paths lit with every modern lighting trick; the first time Kew has opened at night in winter. (The show runs on certain days between November 28 and January 4; see the website). I remember when Westonbirt first did the same thing; it was an inspiring sight; trees make ideal subjects for theatrical lighting.

And hortiphones,,too: strange His Master’s Voice-style speakers scattered around ready to perform: music? Commentary? Mysterious vegetable sounds? I can’t wait.


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