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But the audience that listens to this botanical exposition in Kew Gardens has suddenly to disperse. A leader of a Naturalist's Field Club, talking to half-a-dozen companions under a Sophora Japonica, with perhaps a little of the air of a demonstrator, is apparently a novelty to the Saturday afternoon public at Kew; and if the police of this decorous place look unfavourably upon even the smallest nucleus of a crowd, who would willingly give occasion to their suspicions? Accordingly, the botanists of the future, serene in the prospects of celebrity and honours to come, consent to move on," with a submissiveness worthy of ordinary mortals.
In a more secluded part of Kew Gardens, we again encounter the boys of Doctor Blimber's Establishment for Young Gentlemen. Their task of label-copying is happily finished for the day. What formidable questions are in store for them at tea-time! But yonder are our two photographers, in the Pinetum. They have found Picea pinsapo by the aid of the Kew Gardens botanical policeman, who knows all the new trees, and is proud to tell treelovers where they may be found. Cedrus Atlantica, next to Picea pinsapo, is our policeman's favourite tree. We go to look at Cedrus Atlantica upon his recommendation. Its branches we find are rather erect, as distinguished from those of the Lebanon cedar, which are horizontal, and from those of the Deodar, which are pendulous. What a beautiful study in cedar trees Kew Gardens afford! No visitor to Kew Gardens should fail to see the beautiful tree, Picea pinsapo. It is the most ornamental of the silver firs, and quite a portrait tree. It is close by the broad walk, and is easily found. It is the only tree protected from the public by iron bars.
The aspect of Kew Gardens on a Saturday afternoon is that of a restful and soothing holiday resort for the Londoner at the end of the business week. Happily, Kew Gardens provide both rural pleasures and holiday relaxation for the many as well as entertainment for the botanist. If the conservatories and museums are a shade too serious for the Saturday afternoon visitor, the
earliest expounders of this law in the botanieal world, is reported to have said, "Plants do not grow where
they like best, but where other plants will let them."
Arboretum is just what his mood requires. In the Arboretum, which we reach by passing through the gates in the wire fence, we have left the trim gardens behind us, and are amid
The negligence of Nature wide and wild.
Here we can roam under grand beeches and forest oaks and elms. But to those who are bent upon seeing the Palm Stove and all the plant-houses in the Botanic Gardens, what surprises and sensations are in store, especially to marvel-loving sight-seers and holidaymakers. To the marvel-loving public, especially as they may sometimes be seen in Kew Gardens thirty-three thousand strong, the gigantic-stemmed and huge-leaved palms and bananas, and the spiny, prickly, malevolent-looking cactuses, from the tropics, are a romantic collection of curiosities and monsters. To the London holiday-maker these vegetable captives from mysterious countries afar off are as fearful and wonderful as the tigers and giraffes in the Zoological Gardens or in Wombwell's travelling menagerie. Perhaps they come from the countries of the
Cannibals, that each other eat;
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.
The keepers of these Kew menageries seem for ever slaking the thirst of their captives, or trying to make them more at home in their huge glass dens.
"Kew Gardens, then," we say, as we prepare to close our Saturday afternoon ramble, "Kew Gardens happily provide for all variety of tastes and grades of capacity. They are a promenade for the fashionable, a museum for the student, as well as a thrilling picture of vegetable monsters and curiosities to the sight-seeing holiday-maker. To the fashionable visitors Kew Gardens are, it may be feared, chiefly Italian in their uses. To the fashionable the broad walk is for parade; the lake, and terraces, and vases for ornamental accessories; whilst groups of ladies and gentlemen are as indispensable as they are in Wattean pictures. What Kew Gardens are to the simple and hearty holiday-maker on the Saturday and Monday, we have already seen. Perhaps it is only to the medical student from London, who has taken lodgings for a
fortnight on Kew Green, to get up his botany for a pending examination, that Kew Gardens wear a really unholiday-like character."
It is now time for the members of our scattered party to muster at Cumberland Gate. This is the outlet by which we gain the new Kew Gardens Station for our return journey. Photographers, microscopists, and botanists, after making a working tour of the grounds, come straggling up. As we walk to the station the geologist of our company calls our attention to a perpendicular section to the right of the path which has been exposed to view by the newlymade road. The formation thus revealed is a running sand or very thin brick earth, and it is of interest because it is the kind of earth upon which Kew Grounds have been laid out. The visitor who looks at it will not wonder at the ill repute which belongs to a formation in which so many strange and delicate trees have to naturalise themselves. No wonder that the Deodars and limes on the right of the Sion Vista have not yet attained an average height of ten feet, although they have been planted twenty-two years.* It has been a lovely October afternoon for our visit. Autumn, With his gold hand gilding the falling leaf,
has not yet undressed the trees,
colours of an Acadian summer.
and the landscape is full of the Is it not
Passing sweet to wander, free as air,
Blithe truants in the bright and breeze-blessed day,
Far from the town?
These are the sentiments unanimously adopted in our little party as we end our Saturday afternoon at Kew, and the train steams up from Richmond to take us homeward.
*See Dr. Hooker's Report, 1869.