A chance to stop off at Kew Gardens this afternoon – between rain showers happily – and to see what surprises there might be (for there are always surprises in these very varied gardens).
Having paid up for an annual membership (given that they need the money and since I haven’t found my way back to the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Hampshire to renew my membership there – this includes complimentary access to both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place), I walked through the wild/species rose gardens, and on to the Water Lily House. Thence out to the Duke’s Garden, Davies Alpine House, Rock Garden – the Peony beds and finally the Woodland surrounding the Temple of Aeolus.
These pictures – the first of my usual ‘many’, are from a very generous stand of Arum lily in a shady part of the Duke’s Garden. Quite, quite glorious!
Zantedeschia aethiopica (arum lily)
The striking arum lily has been known to European horticulture since at least the 1660s and is one of the world’s most iconic and widely known plants.
Species informationCommon name:
arum lily, calla lilyConservation status:
Not of conservation concern.Habitat:
Marshy places in Southern Africa.Known hazards:
The rhizomes are edible, although the plant is reportedly toxic.
About this species
Zantedeschia aethiopica is one of the world’s most iconic and widely-known plants. Although commonly known as the arum lily or calla lily, it is not a lily at all but an aroid, with its brilliant white spathe (floral bract) surrounding the central pale yellow spadix (floral spike) bearing tiny flowers.
This very attractive plant has been known to European horticulture since at least the 1660s. Carl Linnaeus described it in 1753 as Calla aethiopica and it has been commonly known as the calla lily ever since. The species epithet ‘aethiopica‘ refers to the fact that it is native to Africa. In 1826 Sprengel transferred it to a new genus which he called Zantedeschia. According to Cythna Letty (1973), the name was probably given in honour of Giovanni Zantedeschi, an Italian botanist who lived in the early 19th century.
Plant profile from the RHS –
Duke’s Garden at Kew
In Kew’s early days, Princess Augusta’s advisor on all things botanical, Lord Bute, lived in Cambridge Cottage. In 1772, King George III acquired it, and his sons Princes Edward and William moved in. Subsequent inhabitants were the 1st Duke of Cambridge (Adolphus Fredrick) after whom the garden takes its name, and the 2nd Duke of Cambridge.
Kew acquired the cottage and land in 1904. The garden is called ‘Duke’s Garden’ rather than ‘Cambridge Cottage Garden’ to avoid it being confused with a classic ‘cottage garden’.
Things to look out for
Seasonal beds frame large, manicured lawns. One exhibits gold, orange and red plants, such as Hemerocallis ‘Burning Daylight’ or Lychnis chalcedonica. Another contains violet-hued plantings, and incorporates a lavender trail containing a variety of species and cultivars. Meanwhile, the ‘exotic bed’ is a testing ground for seeing just how hardy some tender plants are. This contains exotics such as tree ferns, ornamental bananas, cannas and gingers.
With the advance of climate change, and the need for gardeners to be more economical with water use, Kew has created a ‘Gravel Garden’ within the Duke’s Garden. Sponsored by Thames Water, this contains plants that are drought tolerant. Growing beneath the shade of a large American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) are nerines from South Africa (Nerine bowdenii), euphorbias (Euphorbia myrsinites) and wand flowers (Dierama pulcherrimum) and other plants that thrive in warm, arid conditions.