England: The Rest

 The entire island is a garden, I swear. Lucky for those who call the U.K. home that they are surrounded by not only gardens but garden centers, garden television programs, hedgerows, countryside and have a love of growing their own veg that borders on obsession. So while our recent and all-too-short vacation in England had us at such magnificent places as a world-class botanical garden in Oxford, Sissinghurst Castle Garden, and Great Dixter, we also experienced the ordinary, every day botanical beauty of England. Here then is a wrap-up of extra moments that are of course, plant-related.
We stumbled upon Kensington Palace and its gardens in Hyde Park while walking around trying to stay awake after our 12-hour flight. What a blessing to have had this 350-acre park in the middle of the city to catch our breath.

A bit of Hyde Park's wilder side. This, London's largest park, was established by Henry VIII after he confiscated lands from the church; today it is a welcome respite for its nearly 9 million residents. Much of it is large open meadows with periodic trees and mown paths. We saw many people walking dogs, picnicking, jogging, biking, etc., basically enjoying the outdoors.

Arborists performing low-impact branch removal using ropes and muscle.

Pelargoniums looking rather pretty in a border on the southern side of the park, the South Flower Walk.

Abutilon, a rather wonderfully large tree fern and bedding plants.

All kinds of fabulous plants in there including what I believe is Acacia cultriformis.

Statue of Queen Victoria in front of Kensington Palace.

The back side of a sculpture of Lady Diana in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, commissioned by her sons and unveiled in 2021. There are actually three children depicted here surrounding Diana who represent the children of the world.

As the Sunken Garden is not accessible to the public, we can't really see the front of the sculpture, but it looks nice from afar.

On the other side of the park a small dry garden caught my attention.

Sunset in Hyde Park on The Serpentine, a rather large body of water.

A rather blurry phone photo outside of the Imperial War Museum of a tree trunk turned into a rather lovely sculpture.

This is actually the very first photo I took on this trip, the view out of our hotel window. How lovely is that? Even though the garden is private, that is for residents of this neighborhood only, it was a great view from above and confirms that the people of London love their green spaces.

Advertisements on the Tube for an exhibition at Kew Gardens. What a fabulous idea embracing and celebrating diversity, I wish we had had more time to see the exhibition. We did get to see Kew on our last trip, you can visit those posts here and here.

On to Oxford. This is our hotel in a park-like setting a short bus ride away from the city center.

We went on a rather long walk around the town through fields and ended up at Christ Church College which had very pretty borders of perennials and grasses.

The other direction, many historic buildings as is typical for such an old university town.

A closer look. I love all the stone work in the buildings and walls alike.

In the Oxford Covered Market a rabbit from Alice in Wonderland looks like he's running late. I include him here as rabbits are increasingly a part of gardeners' frustrations. Plus this is Lewis Carroll country.

A very pretty garden store in the same Covered Market.

Another college, one of thirty-nine at Oxford. So many have incredible courtyards and architecture alike.

We visited The Ashmolean museum, free as so many museums are in the U.K., and were astonished by the collections. A favorite of mine is ancient jewelry, this gold necklace with pomegranates circa 400 - 250 BC stopped me in my tracks.

As did this incredible gold acorn necklace from a Crimean grave, 5th century BC.

Beautiful Syrian tile work featuring cypress trees and flowers.

Carved 17th-century wooden doors with floral decoration from Saudi Arabia. These were reported to have been owned by T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia.

A graveyard in Oxford with a thoughtful sculpture of a woman reading.

The Oxford coat of arms, Fortis est Veritas, "the truth is strong." Note the ox crossing the ford in the center. This is still the city symbol today, ox (crossing the) ford. The lion at the top holds the Tudor rose in its paws

Two ding-a-lings who can't get a selfie right. In any event the streets of Oxford below.

After three lovely days in the Ox-crossing-the-Ford city we headed to London to catch a train to Cranbrook in the county of Kent. With a couple of hours before our train departed we went literally across the street to the National Gallery (again, free admission) for a random exploration. How about a little Van Gogh landscape? So many treasures, it's really unbelievable.

While in Cranbrook we of course explored Sissinghurst and Great Dixter but didn't take a lot of photos of this very picturesque village. This, at least, is one of our B & B restaurant at the George Hotel, a building that dates to the 12th century.

And a random pyracantha hedge in a grocery store parking lot.

Dripping with October vibes.

As seen whizzing by on a train. Gardening is in the bones here, one reason why I enjoy the U.K. so much. Would we see something like this in the states? I doubt it.

I close this post and indeed all of our recent England adventures with a passage back to Saint Helens, our home. How convenient that a portal to our home town in Oregon exists in an enchanted alleyway in the town where the ox crosses the ford. I hope the trip can be reversed someday soon and we return to the island of green things soon.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. Thank you so much for reading and commenting and coming along on our adventures! We do love hearing from you all. Happy gardening!


  1. What a fabulous adventure! The sunken garden is very pretty, but it is the borders that send me. So beautiful.

    1. The borders, especially in Oxford, are amazing.

  2. Anonymous9:38 AM PST

    Ages ago, before I was into gardening I visited Kew, and I know I wasn't able to appreciating it properly. It is most definitely on my list for the next visit to the UK.
    Did you run into Inspector Morse or Lewis during your visit to Oxford?

    You have wonderful photos of Kensington and Hyde park (Sunset in Hyde Park on The Serpentine!!!). London is full of fabulous public parks. By happy accident I came upon St. James Park on a recent visit and it turned into a most memorable stop on that trip. One can't go wrong with London parks.

    1. Oh, a visit to Kew is always a grand idea. We did run into the ghost of Morse in Oxford - went on a Morse/Lewis walking tour that was a hoot. Stopped at the Randolph Hotel for lunch and saw the Morse bar. Very cool.

      Parks in cities are such a respite for locals and road weary travelers alike, you are so right, can't go wrong with London parks. Cheers!

  3. Chris Darr9:41 AM PST

    what a Trip you both had! I can hear you speaking Latin most of the time while frolicking through the gardens. love all the posts

    1. You know, some of that Latin has rubbed off on FM. My plan is nearly complete.

  4. I love these random green moments during a trip, the grounding of the garden traveler in the place they're visiting. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You are certainly a "green-moment-seeker-outer" when traveling too, I so appreciate that about your adventures as well. Cheers.

  5. I can't even imagine living somewhere as embedded in the gardening culture as the UK is. While I've been to Europe twice, I never got to the UK. I'd love to remedy that omission.

    1. Oh, Kris, the gardens, the garden culture, all of it, ....yes! I would also love to see Ireland, Scotland, those fantastic garden nations. There's just so much to see and love in the world!

    2. ruby moon11:40 AM PST

      So enjoyed traveling with a kindred spirit. I have sent these to my great niece who lives outside London but she still has a house and garden in Michigan. You inspire me.

    3. I'm so thrilled you enjoyed it, Ruby! Cheers.

  6. So wonderful to see the gardening countryside from your eyes. I hope to one day make it there. My grandparents lived in Victoria, BC which has a very British history. So much so that I easily connect with British culture. Would be lovely to experience it in person. Shopping the many nurseries and viewing the gardens would be a dream come true.

    1. I hope you can make it someday too, and I totally get the British culture connection. I bet you would have a grand time!

  7. If only our universities and colleges would put in as much effort on landscaping as they do in England! I wonder how they manage to keep plants in the budget. Per the jewelry - It is jaw-dropping what people were making thousands of years ago without all of our modern equipment. Sometimes I get lost in those exhibits trying to imagine those times so long ago. I am so happy you got to go!

    1. Oh my gosh, could you imagine real, substantial landscaping budgets? We're pretty lucky in Portland area to have some really lovely landscaping in the city and parks overall (a few bumps here and there but really, it's good).

      I too daydream about imagining what life must have really been like thousands of years ago, the fact that such beautiful and clearly meaningful items were made at all speaks volumes about human creativity. And yes - the precision the jewelry was made with! Smart people, me thinks.


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