My fiancé and I were walking through a shopping mall in Gillingham (Kent) in about 1993 when we spotted a flowers seller. We stopped to look at what he had on offer and spotted a kind of flower that we had never seen before.
Later, I discovered that they were bunches of alstroemeria flowers. Also known as ‘Peruvian lilies’ and ‘lily of the Incas’, they were named ‘alstroemeria’ by Carl Linnaeus in honour of his friend Clas Alströmer (1736–1794), a Swedish baron.
We bought a bunch from the florist. As we paid, he said:
“They’re good lasters. Should last you a week or two.”
And, so they were. Now, over 25 years since we married, whenever we see alstroemeria on sale, we buy them not only for their longevity, but also because they are very attractive.
Once again, London’s Kew Gardens is hosting an exhibition of glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly (born 1941). The amazingly crafted glass artworks of often quite complex design have been placed both in the open-air and inside some of Kew’s lovely old glass-houses.
The curvy tubes with pointed ends shown in my photograph have been tastefully planted in a grassy field dotted with tulips. In the Temperate House, a large glass mobile has been suspended from the ceiling and smaller objects mingle with the plants. Wherever you look, you will find glass artefacts in intimate contact with the plants growing around them. In the Water-Lily House, large glass sulptures evoking the flowers of water-lillies mingle with the real plants whose fronds float on the water.
As time passes and the plants grow more, some of Chihuly’s colourful glass objects will become harder to find. The plant-like forms of many of the artworks mix with the plants to provide in some cases a stark contrast or in others they almost blend with the plants around them.
It is well worth visiting Kew whilst these sculptures are on display. However much I like the glass artworks, the stars of the show are for me the plants themselves (rather than the sculptures). This highlights how difficult it is for man to compete with nature on the aesthetic playing field.
The Chihuly works are on display at Kew Gardens until the 27th October 2019