Kew, and blue Posted on July 23, 2016

Agapanthus 'Northern Star' . More purple than blue in this photo, but a glorious colour.

To Kew to see how the mammoth new herbaceous borders are coming on. When they were inaugurated in April, after a year or so of preparation, they still looked enigmatic.. Three months has been enough to turn promise into spectacular performance: surely one of the horticultural wonders of the world. The two borders together total over 2,000 feet of planting; I heard someone mention 30,000 plants. The scale of the project and its ambition, to make an immense tapestry of interwoven plants, of well-considered colours, without hesitation, deviation or repetition, is almost Victorian. Follow the planting schemes carefully and you can see how conditions change with the influence of the other plants around. At the Palm House end there are big trees closing in; the choice of plants tends towards the woodland. It will be fascinating to see how the components knit together and form new patterns of colour. What a job taking care of it will be for some lucky gardeners.

The sight of the Broad Walk disappearing into the distance, thronged with families and lined on both sides with splendid planting, makes me think of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace and the confident achievements of Victoria and Albert. For sideshow there is The Hive, the new pavilion promoting the work of bees in fertilizing (among other things) 80% 0f our food plants. The Hive is a rather beautiful structure formed of aluminium struts, suggesting the complexity of a beehive – and buzzing and throbbing with the amplified sounds of the bees in Kew’s actual beehive nearby.

In the first really warm days of summer, after more than generous rainfall, Kew was looking wonderful. It is Lime Time (Tilia Time to botanists) when the air is sweetly dense with scent from millions of flowers decking some of the biggest trees.

It’s pretty good in the garden at home, too – all 900 square feet of it. The warmth has brought plants into full flower that have been looking tentative, in some cases for weeks. It has pressed the release button on reluctant roses. Salvias and agapanthus are loving it. I am always on the lookout for blue flowers. I home in on them in every garden I visit and in every nursery. There is a (short) book to be written about their allure – and relative rarity. Salvias and agapanthus provide some of the best. Each summer I keep my fingers crossed for Salvia patens to reemerge, and this year I was delighted to see S. vitifolia (big furry vine-shaped leaves and caerulean flowers) had survived the wet winter. We came back from France with a new agapanthus acquaintance: the positively sapphire Northern Star which a friend had planted in big pots, repeated forty times around the terrace of their 18th century hunting lodge, each, with the sun behind it, a gleaming gem. We modern gardeners don’t know how spoilt we are; our ancestors had nothing like this.

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