For many years, I’ve been telling myself to go to Kew Gardens but like so many other things, I’ve never got round to it. Until now.
If you can align a trip to Kew with the sun then you couldn’t come at a better time. There isn’t much that is left to do – grab a bag, stuff in a blanket, a book and snacks, and voilà: you’ve got a perfect day. And even without a blanket, a book and snacks, you’ve still got yourself a perfect day.
Last Monday was one of the sunniest days so far this year, and to celebrate the occasion I slipped on a dress, and decided to bare my pasty limbs to the public. Looking at the photos it seems like I tried to coordinate my floral dress with Kew’s flowery landscape, but honestly, I’m not that twee.
Let me start by saying Kew is no ordinary garden, its official name is ‘The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’, and its UNESCO World Heritage status is an indication to their importance. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant contribution to the study of plant diversity and vital research continues to present day. Impressively, Kew is the world’s largest collection of living plants.
I’m not going to tell you about all the different varieties of plants at Kew, or give a run down of all their scientific names because there are thousands, and anyway, I’m not a botanist. If you want to know more about the intricate life of plants that can be found here, visit their website www.kew.org. Alternatively, the Godfather of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough, made his series, Kingdom of Plants, at Kew gardens which you can easily find on the web. Here’s a short introduction:
Even though I may not have managed to memorise every tree or plant I clapped eyes on, I did take away a few cool facts from my trip to Kew:
- Tequila is made from Blue Agave, a plant found only in Mexico.
- The Coco der Mer which grows from palms is also known as the Love Nut and resembles a female’s bottom! For this reason it has its own Wikipedia page called Legends of the Coco der Mer.
Credit for this Love Nut goes to Lu and The Unwitting Traveller.
Main Attractions at Kew
If you think the Love Nut must steal the show, you’d be wrong. There are several key attractions at Kew, and many smaller ones that can be found when strolling around all 326 acres of the various gardens.
The key attractions are:
Despite its name, Kew Palace is a modest size but with many distinguishing features. In its heyday the Palace was popularly known as the Dutch House because of its Dutch cables, these are the curves on the side and top of the house, typically found in Northern European architecture of the 16th and 17th Century.
The Palace used to be home to King George III but is now open to the public. At the back of the house is a picturesque maze garden, and nearby is a stream with plenty of ducks and geese. I spent far too long taking photos of them, but I couldn’t help it, just look how photogenic they are, or this one at least.
There are several glasshouses in Kew, unfortunately the Temperate House is closed for restoration and won’t be opened until 2018 but worry not, you have the wonderful two-storey Palm House that feels like you’re walking into a tropical rainforest.
Next is the Princess of Wales Conservatory which has ten different climatic zones, housing a large variety of plants, including cacti, orchids, and my favourite, carnivorous plants. The latter always makes me feel nostalgic when I think back to my childhood obsession with Venus Flytraps. The idea of a plant being able to eat a fly used to amaze me, and well, it still does!
There’s also the Waterlily House, which is the smallest yet hottest and most humid of Kew’s glasshouses.
The Treetop Walkway
Revealed in 2008, the Xstrata Treetop Walkway is one of the latest additions to the Gardens. It was built by Mark Barfields Architects, the guys also behind the making of the London Eye. Towering in at 18 metres above ground level, head up for spectacular panoramic views. Nearby the Treetop Walkway are lots of woodland with bluebells and tiny flowers synonymous with spring and the onrush of summer.
The Pagoda and Japanese Gardens
Have you been to Kew Gardens? Do you have a favourite garden that you’ve visited from your travels?