Top posts of 2016 – my favourite five

Greenwich Park cherry blossom avenue

It’s time to look back at 2016 and pick my best posts of the year. Not as easy as you might think – there’s plenty fighting for a place, and it’s tempting to choose ten or even more. But I’m going to stand firm at five, so you know the winners have really earned their place. Here they are, in date order. Continue reading

The Art of Trees: Masumi Yamanaka at Kew

Black Locust Flower, Leaf and Fruit by Masumi Yamanaka © Kew Gardens

Black Locust Flower, Leaf and Fruit by Masumi Yamanaka © Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is a wonderful place to visit to see plants and flowers in bloom, but you may not realise it also has two art galleries. One of them, the Marianne North gallery, has a permanent display of pictures by the great Victorian explorer, but the other, the Shirley Sherwood gallery, has changing exhibitions of botanical art. Currently on show are a series of new paintings by Kew artist Masumi Yamanaka of some of the rare and spectacular heritage trees in the gardens. Continue reading

Is it cherry blossom time yet?

Priory Park Cherry BlossomEvery year around this time I start getting impatient for the cherry blossom to bloom. I know it’s too soon for the full display, but the beginning of March is when you start to see early plum and cherry blossom, like the delicate plum blossom in the picture above. If you want to know the best places to go when the season really kicks off, then my London Parks Cherry Blossom Top Five Guide is what you want. But I thought I’d whet your appetite with a reminder of what’s in store. Continue reading

Marianne North, Victorian Explorer

Marianne North in Ceylonargaret_Cameron

One of the nice things about Kew Gardens is how you can go on discovering new things there however often you go. I must have walked past the Marianne North Gallery dozens of times without giving it a second thought until I discovered one day who Marianne North actually was and what a fascinating life she led, travelling the world in search of unknown flowers and plants and bringing them back to the UK. Between 1871 and 1885 she went to America, Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Tenerife, Japan, Singapore, Sarawak, Java, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Seychelles, Chile and, of course, Japan. Continue reading

The 1910 Japan-British Exhibition – what’s left?

Season ticket to the Japan-British Exhibition 1910

© Museum of London

You thought the London Olympics were big, right? Eight and a half million tickets sold. Spectacular. But in 1910 another event did just as well, and it wasn’t a sporting event but a cultural initiative. It was the Japan-British Exhibition at White City, visited by 8,350,000 people, with 460,000 people passing through its gates in a single day (Japanese Gala Day). Okay, I admit it did go on longer than the Olympic Games – nearly six months, from 14 May 1910 to 29 October 1910.  But what was it for and what did it leave behind?  Continue reading