Palm House Parterre-Namaqualand
Kew hosts biodiversity hotspot
- David and his team raise 22,000 plants each year for the summer bedding display.
- The display includes many annual bedding plants originating from Namaqualand commonly used by UK gardeners, e.g. Gazania sp, Felicia sp, Pelargonium sp and Nemesia sp. Click here for Plant List.
While South Africa hosts the 2010 World Cup, Kew Gardens brings a corner of the rainbow nation to the Palm House Parterre. From mid-June the spectacular bedding display in front of the Palm House evokes the extraordinary burst of colour that is spring in Namaqualand in the Northern Cape.
The Parterre is planted with plants from one biodiversity ‘hotspot’, to highlight global issues affecting biodiversity: environmental threats, climate change and invasive plants that damage plant populations.
Inspired by a research trip to Namaqualand the display’s designer, David Shipp, Propagator in the Hardy Display Decorative Nursery, has arranged this bewildering flora in large drifts, to reflect the random swathes of plants which feature in the Namaqualand spring landscape. Some beds demonstrate threats to the region’s delicate ecosystem posed by environmental issues such as overgrazing, industrial pollution and excessive plant collecting. Eucalyptus camaldulensis trees highlight the damage that invasive plants can carry out on fragile plant communities. The central quadrant is planted to show the dizzying array of flower shapes which have developed to attract the numerous pollinators found in Namaqualand and some of the plants which are useful to man.
Namaqualand lies on South Africa’s west coast. Diamonds are mined near the coast. In spring tourists from South Africa and beyond are attracted to other jewels carpeting the landscape: vibrantly coloured flowers of drought adapted annual plants which grow in the cooler, wetter winter and bloom in spring, surviving as seeds until next year. Other plants develop fleshy leaves and stems to save water or bulbs with tuberous storage organs which survive the summer heat. Plants display multifarious flower shapes to attract the attention of bees, beetles, moths, long-tongued flies, birds and gerbils seeking nourishing nectar and pollen in the short flowering season. Changes in the environment cause dominant species to survive and threaten plants unable to adapt. The Parterre is planted with Ursinia speciosa, a Cape daisy which takes over when natural biodiversity is unbalanced.
Palm House Parterre Facts
- The original layout of the flower beds around the Palm House was drawn up by landscape artist William Nesfield in 1845 to set off the grandeur of Decimus Burton’s Palm House~ and originally included what is now the Rose Garden.
- They were first patterned on intensely planted 17th century French and German designs. The planting schemes have become less formal over the years, particularly during the First and Second World Wars when the Parterres were dug up to plant root crops.
- Two seasonal planting themes are installed every year by expert horticultural staff, displaying a remarkable range of colour.
- Parterre - an ornamental flower garden having the beds and paths arranged to form a pattern. French, from par terre, 'on the ground'.
South Africa Landscape at the British Museum
For the third year running Kew has teamed up with the British Museum to create a themed garden. This summer Kew has created a South African landscape. Walk through tumbled rocks, sand and uniquely shaped quiver trees in the forecourt of the Museum. The landscape highlights Kew’s biodiversity conservation work being undertaken in South Africa.
Star plants of the Namaqualand Palm House Parterre
river red gum
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