The splendid Dale Chihuly exhibition at Kew Gardens

sapphire star dale Chilhuly

Sapphire Star, 2010


I am not sure why it took me so long to visit the ‘Chihuly – Reflections on nature‘ exhibition at Kew Gardens, but I finally managed to catch it a few days before it ended. It was not the best day to visit Kew, but the autumn foliage made up for the grey and drizzly weather.

I was glad that I made it because I thought it was was the best U.K. exhibition I saw this year. American artist Dale Chihuly‘s stunning nature-inspired glass sculptures did not look out of place at Kew, in fact, they undoubtedly enhanced the gardens in many ways.





Chihuly at Kew


With a map in hand, I wandered around the gardens in search for his 32 sculptures installed at 12 different locations. Aside from the Rotunda Chandelier at the V & A entrance, I don’t recall seeing a lot of Dale Chilhuly‘s works in the U.K., so this exhibition was a fascinating opportunity to see an artist who has spent the last 50 years perfecting and experimenting on a skill/craft/art that he loves. Even on a grey day, Chihuly‘s glass sculptures still looked magnificent, and it was hard not to be gobsmacked by the intricate craftsmanship and dazzling colours.


Temperate House Persian

Temperate House Persian  Temperate House Persian

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew  Chihuly at Kew

Fiori Verdi

Chihuly at Kew


Besides the outdoor sculptures, the indoor ones looked marvelous too. The Temperate House Persians – a new artwork specially designed to be suspended inside the world’s largest and newly restored Victorian glasshouse could be admired from below and above. Meanwhile, some of his other works inside the glasshouse appeared to be camouflage e.g. ‘Fiori Verdi’ among the exotic plants, which was quite a pleasant surprise for the visitors.


‘Summer Sun’, 2010

Opal and Amber Towers, 2018

Lime Crystal Tower, 2006

 Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower

Top: ‘Summer Sun’, 2010; 2nd row: ‘Opal and Amber Towers’, 2018; 3rd row: ‘Lime Crystal Tower’, 2006; bottom row: Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower, 2013


One of the most conspicuous outdoor sculptures at the exhibition was ‘Summer Sun’, a bold piece consisted of 1,483 separate elements. Yet the most complex one is ‘Scarlette and Yellow icicle tower’, which has 1,882 separate elements.

Out of all the installations at the gardens, my personal favourites were the ‘Niijima Floats’ and ‘Ethereal White Persian Pond’ inside the Waterlily House. Named after a volcanic island in Tokyo Bay, the ‘Niijima Floats’ installation at the Japanese rock garden was made up of brightly coloured glass spheres in various sizes, some of which weigh up to 60 pounds (27 kg). A series introduced by Chihuly in 1991, the colourful spheres looked unexpectantly harmonious with its surroundings; I especially liked the Chinese pagoda backdrop. I felt a sense of tranquility and balance looking at this installation, and it was unfathomable by intellect – you could only feel it, which probably made it more powerful.


'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

'Niijima Floats' (1992 - 2008)

‘Niijima Floats’, 2019


‘Ethereal white persian pond’ inside the Waterlily house was another breathtaking installation. As soon as I entered the glasshouse, my eyes were captivated by the extraordinary white and translucent striped glass flowers supported and rimmed with steel standing on the surface of the pond. Again, I felt that the glass flowers belonged there, in the pond with the water lilies and lotus leaves. The reflection of the glass sculptures on the water created a dreamlike/surreal effect, which made me believe that these flowers are part of nature and that there is no difference between the sculptures and nature.

Chihuly has said that he wants his work “to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest, they might think it belonged there.” And I believe that he has certainly achieved this.


'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

'Ethereal white persian pond', 2018

‘Ethereal white persian pond’, 2018


The last location I visited was the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, where visitors could see his sketches, drawings, smaller glass sculptures and a film detailing Chihuly’s creative process. It was interesting to see many artisans working alongside with Chihuly in the production process, hence the collaborative efforts are essential for his final pieces.


Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew  Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew

Chihuly at Kew


Although I have visited Kew Gardens almost annually (usually with a friend who lives locally) for the last few years, I have never been able to cover the entire area. There is always something new to discover here, and on this visit, I spent almost an hour inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory examing the carnivorous plants in a maze-like glasshouse.


kew gardens  kew gardens


kew plants  kew plants


kew gardens


Although Kew is popular with visitors all year round, I personally love coming here in autumn. I enjoy hearing the rustling sounds of autumn leaves being blown in the wind, and the crunching sounds produced when my shoes made contact with the leaves. Perhaps it is due to global warming, but I feel that autumns here have become shorter, and if this is the case, then we need to cherish this season before it vanishes altogether – which will be almost unthinkable but not impossible. Watching the autumn leaves fall onto the ground is a reminder of our fleeting lives, although it comes with a sense of melancholy, there is also much beauty in it. I think nature is our best teacher, and maybe this is the reason why I will always want to return to Kew in autumn.


Chihuly at Kew

autumn foliage Kew  autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew

autumn foliage Kew  FOLIAGE KEW


autunn foliage



Rebecca Louise Law at Kew Gardens




In the last year or so, I have visited Kew Gardens three times – all thanks to my friend who is a member, hence I was able to get free entry because of her. So, when she enthusiastically informed me about the new botanical installation by London-based artist Rebecca Louise Law , it got me excited again.

We wanted to visit the gardens on a nice day (for a change), but with the unpredictable British weather, it wasn’t exactly an easy task. Although we did meet on a sunny Sat morning, the chill wind was strong and it didn’t help by the fact that we were both slightly under the weather.

Despite that, it was still a joy to walk through Rebecca‘s interactive installation ‘Life in Death’ featuring 1000 garlands of preserved flowers, inspired by the ancient Egyptian funeral garlands of Ramesses II at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. It is very difficult to capture the installation on camera, you’d have to walk through the room to fully appreciate the delicacy, intricate details and stunning arrangements hanging from the ceiling.


Rebecca Louise law  Rebecca Louise law



Since Rebecca hates waste, she tends to recycle and retain leftover flowers from her installations. This ‘life in death’ installation strives to create ‘life’ from no-longer-fresh-flowers and encourage visitors to appreciate age, nature and the beauty of preserved flowers.

The installation features 375,000 flowers cultivated from across the world, including her entire collection of preserved flowers from the past decade. All the flowers were treated by freezing in Kews’s giant freezer to kill off any potential pests before being turned into garlands. Each of the 1000 garlands took a day to make – luckily, the effort paid off.



Rebecca Louise law  Rebecca Louise law


After seeing the installation, we walked up to the Treetop Walkway to enjoy some autumn foliage. Even though it was rather chilly, it was still pleasant to see the gardens from above. I think the gardens are lovely all year round, but the mix of yellow, brown, green and red colour tones undoubtedly make autumn slightly more endearing than other seasons.



kew gardens  kew gardens







Rebecca Louise Law: Life in Death will be showing at Kew Gardens until 11 March 2018.



Kew gardens in autumn

kew gardens

The grade II Listed Temple of Bellona was built by Sir William Chambers in 1760


The last time I visited Kew Gardens was some years back in the summer when a friend was visiting the UK. We took a boat from Westminster all the way to Kew, and we had a lovely day out. I have not been back since, partly because of the high entrance fee; though after starting a botanical illustration course a few weeks ago, I was keen to return to the gardens to see the new Japanese botanical illustration exhibition and the Marianne North gallery.

Coincidentally, I mentioned this to a new friend, and I subsequently found out that not only she lives in Kew but is also a member of the gardens. Thanks to her – who knows the gardens like the back of her hand – I was able to visit the garden twice in a month to see the exhibition, the gallery, the new hive installation and most importantly, the autumn foliage. And I thoroughly enjoyed spending time at the gardens.


the hive

the hive  the hive

The Hive installation


We first visited the Hive, a new open-air structure, inspired by scientific research into the health of bees. Designed by UK based artist Wolfgang Buttress, the multi-sensory installation is made from thousands of pieces of aluminium which create a lattice effect. Inside the structure, it is fitted with speakers and hundreds of LED lights that respond to the real-time activity of bees in a beehive at Kew. The sound and light intensity within the space changes as the energy levels in the real beehive surge, and visitors can feel the vibration while they stand inside.


kew gardens

kew gardens

kew gardens

kew gardens

kew gardens

kew gardens

The Pagoda and Japanese landscape


When we made our first visit, the colours of the trees had yet to turn, which was slightly disappointing. However, we did see the brilliant Flora Japonica exhibition (until March 2017), which showcases Japanese native flora portraayed by 36 of the most eminent contemporary Japanese botanical artists, and historic drawings and paintings by some of Japan’s most revered botanists and artists such as Dr Tomitaro Makino, Sessai Hattori and Chikusai Kato.


kew gardens

kew gardens  kew gardens

kew gardens

kew gardens  kew gardens

kew gardens

Top three rows: The lake and the Palladian Bridge


Another reason why I wanted to visit Kew was to see the Marianne North Gallery. I recently watched a documentary on the amazing and inspiring botanical artist who traveled around the world to paint plants in the late 19th century. As a single Victorian woman, it must have been a tremendous task to travel solo and documented all the rare and foreign species that were largely unknown to the UK at the time.

The Marianne North gallery was inaugurated in 1882, after Marianne had spent a year arranging her paintings inside the building. After a £1.8 million restoration project, the gallery reopened in 2009 featuring 833 paintings and depicting more than 900 species of plants. If you have not visited this gallery before, I urge you to go because it is simply astounding and fantastic.


treetop kew gardens

treetop kew gardens  treetop kew gardens

treetop kew gardens

Treetop walkway


Most of the photos here were taken on our second visit – when the leaves finally changed colours. The gardens were looking beautiful and one of the highlights of the day was to walk up to the Treetop walkway to watch the sunset and enjoy the spectacular view from the top.


Palm House kew garden

Palm House kew garden  Palm House kew garden  kew gardens

The Palm house


A quotation from the English nature writer Richard Jefferies described Kew Gardens as “a great green book, whose broad pages are illuminated with flowers, lying open at the feet of Londoners.”

As Londoners, we are very lucky to have this gem in the city, and it is certainly a place for all ages and for all seasons.


Capturing autumn colours

hampstead heath

Hampstead heath


This autumn, we have had some beautiful sunny days with vivid blue sky in London, therefore I couldn’t resist taking the time off (during the week) to enjoy nature in this bustling city. And I didn’t have to go far since Hampstead Heath is the sanctuary for nature in London.


hampstead heathhampstead heathhampstead heath

Hampstead Heath


I often feel that when people are disconnected with nature, they are likely to disconnect with reality. Nature reflects the universe, and it reminds us of the cycle of life. When we take time to observe nature, we would open up our minds and see things in a larger context beyond our narrow world.

Like Japan, the UK also has fairly distinctive seasons, so perhaps we can learn from the Japanese and celebrate each season with joy, gratitude and curiosity.


autumn leaves autumn leaveshampstead heath

 Yellow and brown


During the few months in autumn, I would often walk around with my eyes fixated on the pavement (not when I am crossing busy streets) because I am so drawn towards the beautiful patterns formed by fallen leaves. Aside from the different coloured and shaped leaves, there are also fallen apples and conkers with spiky green shells – all of these are great works of art created by nature.


autumn leavesautumn leafautumn leavesautumn leaves autumn leavesautumn leavesautumn leaves autumn leaves

 Autumn leaves


Besides the visual aspect, I particularly enjoy trampling on dried fallen leaves and listening to the rustling sounds created by my shoes/boots on the leaves. The act somehow reminds me of childhood, when life was simple and carefree. There are times in our lives when acting childlike can make us forget the burden that accumulates over time as adults.


appleappleapplesconkersconker shellconker shell

 Apples and conkers


I truly believe that art and beauty is all around us, and if only we take the time to observe, we would be stunned by what nature has to offer. Furthermore, solitude in nature provides us the time to connect with ourselves; and if you ever experience negative emotions, an few hours in nature can be as effective as a counseling session. Try it to see for yourself.


hampstead heathautumn foglondon sunset london sunset

A future without autumns



The title of this blog entry came up because of an article I read recently on BBC magazine regarding the effects of climate change. Higher temperatures and droughts across the globe are having big impact on the entire ecosystems, including the reduction of leaf pigments production and causing leaves to fall from trees prematurely.

There are tropical countries where autumns don’t exist at all, and so their inhabitants would miss out on the beauty of autumns. Personally, I love autumns and the article made me wonder what the world will be like without autumns, how will this affect us?


autumnleafsquirrelautumn squirrel


I have come up with a list of possible scenarios if this happens:

No more fall foliage – Tourism in Canada, America and Japan would be affected because fall foliage draws tourists to well-known spots every year. The local economies would no doubt be hit hard by this.

Starving squirrels – What would happen to the poor squirrels? In autumns, I frequently see squirrels out and about in London’s parks gathering and burying nuts and seeds in preparation for winters. Without autumns, they would not have enough time to store food away when it becomes scarce in winters.

Expensive mushrooms – Autumn arriving later (like this year) means that fungi is not appearing until the temperature drops. Mushrooms boom in autumns, without autumns, they would be scarce and harder to find. Outdoor activities like fungi foraging would not take place, and we may have to pay a double for our wild mushroom risottos!


autumn leavesautumn leaves autumn leaves


Halloween without pumpkins – Foods like pumpkins, sweet potatoes, figs and many root vegetables are harvested during autumn, a Halloween without the iconic carved pumpkin is almost unthinkable!

No more Sweet Purple Potato Kit Kat – Seasonal changes and festivals are very important to the Japanese culture. Not only do the Japanese celebrate each season with traditional activities and events, seasonal food and ingredients are also closely linked with their food culture. Food and drinks manufacturers, fast food chains and restaurants would launch limited edition seasonal products all year round. In autumn, sweet purple potato, pumpkin, mushroom, ginko nuts and chestnut are all seasonal foods that you would see everywhere. How boring would the world be without Sweet Purple Potato Kit Kat?


Tales from the autumn housee Tales from the autumn houseeTales from the autumn housee

‘Tales from the Autumn House’ exhibition at St John on Bethnal Green installed by graphic artist and illustrator Renaud C. Haslan


No autumn fashion and trends – The multibillion-dollar fashion industry depends very much on the seasons, and during fashion week in September and October every year, fashionistas are all out and about ready to be photographed in their latest autumn gear. Being seen in their passé summer outfits would be unimaginable!

An unusually warm October in the UK this year has caused a dip in sales of coats, jackets and knitwear, so fashion companies would need to be ready for more unpredictable weather in the future.

Autumn-inspired art, poems, music, films and novels will be meaningless – In the year 2114, people may have to rely on paintings, poems, films, books and songs to get a glimpse of what autumn feels and looks like. Yet these works would be meaningless to the generations who have never experienced autumns in their life time. Autumns would be part of history, just like the Ice age and they wouldl learn about it through their school textbooks…


I am sure I can keep on writing about this, but I hope that none of the above would take place. Skeptics may continue to dismiss climate change as myths or that humanity is not responsible for it, but how can industrial pollution and carbon dioxide emissions be beneficial to mankind and the planet? We need to be responsible for our actions and protect the environment regardless of whether global warming is man-made or not.

A future without autumns sounds frightening and yet plausible unless we take the warning seriously.


Goodbye autumn…



Autumn is my favourite season of the year, so I am feeling slightly melancholic to see the beautiful red and yellow leaves withering away and looking slightly bare. Yet this is the cycle of nature, and even though I haven’t been able to go hiking out of London, I am glad that nature can still be found within the city.


skypall mallautumnautumn


In summer, London is full of tourists, so it is not very pleasant esp. around the centre, and even in parks, it would be hard to find a nice spot on a sunny day. In late autumn, however, the city is less busy and it is especially pleasant to walk in parks because you see only dog-walkers and joggers. Sometimes if I am feeling stressed with work, even a short walk in the park can help me to clear my mind.

As busy Londoners, we are always rushing, doing something or checking our smartphones, and we don’t even have time to observe what is around us anymore. Actually we don’t need to trek outside of London to enjoy nature, we can enjoy beautiful sunset in the middle of the city if we just slow down our pace and look up into the sky. Although these magical moments usually happen very quickly and unexpectedly, it is really worth the short while to appreciate the wonders of nature.


kensington gardenskensington gardens kensington gardenskensington gardens

Kensington gardens in late autumn



Autumn hike in Kent

darent valleydarent valleydarent valley


Since my calligraphy classes resumed in September, I have not been able to get out of London for day hikes. Last weekend, my class was cancelled and so I was able to spend the day hiking along the Darent Valley Path in Kent.

Two days before the hike, the forecast looked very grim: windy and rainy, which was quite off-putting. But for those who have lived in the U.K. long enough would know that the forecast here is rarely reliable, as the weather could change by the hour… And as it turned out, the day was sunny with blue sky and mild temperature, so the forecast was wrong again!


lullingstone castledarent valleylullingstone castleshorehamshoreham

Top left: The Gatehouse of Lullingstone Castle ( we were told by the staff there that it is haunted); Main: The Manor house; Bottom left & right: Shoreham village


As always, the 9-mile hike was very enjoyable, with some hills to climb ( my legs were quite achy on the next day) and friendly company. We walked through some picturesque small villages ( Ortford, Shoreham and Eynsford) and passed by the historical Lullingstone Castle ( built in 1497), which unfortunately was closed on the day.

Due to the unusually long, hot and dry summer, autumn foliage is yet to happen except for the fallen leaves ( and cracked chestnuts) in the shady woods. There are still wild blackberries everywhere, so we all took the opportunity to stuff ourselves, especially knowing that they will wither very soon.


chestnutplantstreeplanttreederent valleysnail


I hope I will be able to go on another hike to see the fall foliage, but with such unpredictable weather, who knows when winter will suddenly arrive? All we can do is to go with the flow, though sometimes, there may be nice surprises in store for us, like the fine day as seen above.


The last days of autumn

I love British summers but my favourite time of the year is still autumn. Although we don’t have spectacular autumn foliage like Canada, United States, Japan and Korea, where people would travel annually to specific spots to watch fall colours; we can still take some time to appreciate the beauty of the autumn.

Last week, I was working in the office feeling slightly stressed out and down, so I decided to go for a walk in the heath on a rather misty and grey day. My mood did not change until I started noticing different colours in the surroundings and the beautiful works of art created by the seemingly hard working spiders!

The dew on the spider’s webs made them stand out more than usual and I was totally fascinated… Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera on me, so I used my phone to capture these unique creations.

Walking back home, my mood was lifted and the stress from work slowly melted away. It is a shame that city office workers don’t get chances like this during their work hours ( I was one of them) because I believe that nature can help to reduce stress and improve productivity.

All of a sudden, I wish I could spend more time being in nature; as winter approaches, I know it’s less unlikely to happen.

If only autumn could stay for just a little bit longer…