About Me

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SW London
A semi-mature, hardy individual who tries to get away with doing as little as possible in gardening as in life, still expects the best results & wonders why she is frequently disappointed! She likes to keep a photographic record of everything, good & frequently bad!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The daisies are a moving & so are the peas.

DSCN1416 Picture this; early afternoon, a gloriously sunny day, you have enjoyed an excellent glass of Youngs bitter, walked across a village green where a late summer game of cricket is being played & suddenly come across what looks like a stray from a classy fancy dress party.

DSCN1419 This weekend was Open House London. You know the one, where lots of buildings not normally open to the public throw open their doors & positively welcome us in with open arms. I have visited a few buildings over the past few years, & not visited even more, but the one I enjoyed most & visited again this weekend was the Herbarium at Kew Gardens. A little history of the herbarium can be found here. 

DSCN1418I find the whole place fascinating & would happily spend hours there. We started off in the original building where not only is a sense of history engendered by the dark wood panels & portraits & busts of Hooker, Bentham & Broomfield, but actual history is right there in front of you. We were looking at plant specimens brought back from the Livingstone expedition. Specimens are collected & sent to Kew in an almost identical fashion to the way all those plant hunters did many many years ago; between newspapers in a cardboard folder. The dried specimens are still glued onto paper & stored in the same way.

DSCN1422 DSCN1424

In parallel to this living botanical history some new-fangled processes & procedures have to be employed too. Now, in order to protect the specimens from pest damage, not being allowed to inject the plant material with poison, they all have to be frozen & the storage of some material is in the recently opened new building at the herbarium, where the temperature can be more strictly maintained.

DSCN1427 DSCN1426 Currently the Asteraceae & Fabaceae families are being transferred to the new building, a process will take about a year to complete.

I think I am really a frustrated botanist. I loved biology at school & was frustrated not to be able to study it at A level. When studying for the RHS General Certificate & Diploma I suddenly found myself enjoying the botany bits enormously. Bit late for a career change!

DSCN1432 Sadly we came to the end of a wonderful afternoon far to soon.


  1. It's never too late for a career change :-)

  2. Dear Ms B, I do so agree that the Open House initiative is a wonderful idea, perfect for a nosey parker such as me!! The herbarium at Kew which you feature here looks most intriguing and I have thouroughly enjoyed touring it with you. There are so many hidden delights in London but this is somewhere which must now go on my list.

  3. If you saw my tweet you'll already know I used to arrange volunteer weekends at the Herbarium at Kew which were wonderful.

    One of my highlights was taking out a specimen folder from the cupboard, opening it and finding it was not only a type specimen, it was collected by Darwin. So exciting.

    We also noticed that collecting increased when there were major wars and concluded that many soldiers couldn't get home on leave, so they went plant hunting instead.

  4. You have not adequately explained the presence of disgruntled chap in breeches*

    *unless I missed that bit.

  5. Simon, you are so right. Teensy problem is that I am unemployable as a botanist.

    Edith, highly recommended but so many interesting buildings to see.

    VP I did see your tweet thanks but twitter time is so fast. I am extremely envious, no, downright jealous of the access you had to the herbarium.

    James, as for Mr Disgruntled, I think he was a dream sequence. I have no other explanation as he just disappeared!