Reflections on Nature at Kew

Cobaea scandens, Cup-and-saucer Vine in the Temperate House at Kew Gardens
Cobaea scandens, Cup-and-saucer vine. © Karen Andrews


Chihuly’s dramatic glass artworks are currently on display at Kew Gardens. The inspirational Reflections on Nature exhibition invites the viewer to look more closely at the eye-catching colours and dramatic shapes found in real plants. As Chihuly’s bright blue Persian Column hangs from the Temperate House’s spectacular roof, a rigorous Mexican native climbs the stairs. The extraordinary twining ability of Cobaea scandens provided inspiration for the famous British naturalist, Charles Darwin.


This climber is known by a host of common names, most notably Cup-and Saucer Vine. This is perhaps best illustrated by the photo of a bud below. The bell-shaped flower is surrounded by a large cup- or ruff-like structure. It is also known as Cathedral Bells, Mexican Ivy and Monastery Bells.

Green bud in cup-like structure of Cobaea scandens in Kew’s Temperate House
© Karen Andrews

Bud Transformation

Green is so often considered boring. It is ignored. Why? Whereas a bright artwork remains static, the green bud above undergoes a dramatic and colourful transformation as it matures.

Open, bright purple flower of Cobaea scandens, Cup-and-saucer Vine
© Karen Andrews

Boring Green?

Is green really boring? Chihuly entitles one of his artworks Fiori Verdi, the Italian for Green Flowers. It is surrounded by the diverse leaf shapes from Kew’s amazing plant collections.

Chihuly’s Fiori Verdi surrounded by the diverse leaves of Kew’s Temperate House plant collection
© Karen Andrews

Extraordinary Green Reality

If you climb the Temperate House stairs, you can look down on the extraordinary feather-like fans of Tree Ferns.

Looking down on a feather-like fan of Tree Fern fronds from the Temperate House’s viewing gallery
© Karen Andrews


It may appear that the great sculptor’s creations are unreal. Nature offers us some extraordinary morphology. Check out the cacti in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

White cactus flower on Echinopsis aff. strigosa in Kew’s Princess of Wales Conservatory
© Karen Andrews

A Real Match?

Could Chihuly’s colourful sculptures have any real matches in nature? Take a look at the Peruvian Lillies, Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ in Kew’s Great Broad Walk Borders.

Peruvian Lily, Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ in Kew’s Great Broad Walk Borders
© Karen Andrews
Chihuly’s brightly coloured squiggles in front of Kew’s iconic Palm House
© Karen Andrews

Autumn Colours

Chihuly’s brightly coloured glass squiggles announce the bright colours of autumn. Look at the colourful pumpkins in the kitchen garden and the changing leaf colours in the Arboretum.

An Artist at Work

Nature is an artist at work. Consider the beautiful simplicity of the venation in the Sacred Lotus bud below. Notice how Nature graduates the colour with her paint brush.

The exquisite, yet simple, coloration of a Sacred Lotus bud. © Karen Andrews

A day in a botanic garden can open your eyes to appreciate the beauty of greenery and flowers around us every day.

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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