One of Kew's fabulous roses
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
As I'm interested in gardens and natural history, and I believe in the protection of rare and endangered species, one of the places I enjoy (but visit all too rarely) are the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
For those who aren't familiar with England, Kew is on the banks of the River Thames near Richmond in west London. And Kew Gardens are one of the foremost botanic gardens in the world.
The botanic gardens, formerly the grounds of a royal palace, are over 300 acres (120 hectares) in size, and are a delight for anyone interested in gardens. There is something of interest at every time of the year, whether it is the camellias in April, the roses in June/July, or the wonderful autumn colours of the trees near the Pagoda.
The glasshouses include the famous Palm House (the best free Turkish Bath in London!) and the Temperate House (including specimens of citrus trees, tea etc.) both of which are the original Victorian structures. Then there are the new Princess of Wales Conservatory, which houses 10 different climatic zones, the Alpine House, the Rhododendron Walk, the Waterlilly House (another good Turkish bath!), and the roses ... And that only scratches the surface. To see the whole of Kew would take at least of two whole days!
But more even than that ... Kew is first and foremost a place of research and the protection of endangered species particularly through its Millenium Seed Bank: the largest ex situ plant conservation project in the world which focusses on global plant life faced with the threat of extinction and plants of most use for the future. Kew is also one of the world authorities on plant taxonomy.
In the grounds of Kew Gardens there also stands a royal palace, Kew Palace, also known as the Dutch House (picture at right). You wouldn't think it is a palace at first sight, as it is no more than a mid-17th century merchant's house acquired by King George II and Queen Caroline as a house for their daughters. It later became a safe haven for the King George III during his madness.
The palace has been splendidly restored in recent years and is now open to the public. Although small, it is well worth a visit, as are the formal gardens at the back of the house – which are at their best in late May when the laburnum is in flower.
If you're in London and you're interested in plants and gardens, then you really should make time to visit Kew.
Other Sites about Gardens
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Kew Palace
- Chelsea Physic Garden
- Forde Abbey, another of my really favourite places
- Great Dixter
- London Gardens Online
- Gardens in Washington, DC
- Museum of Garden History
- Royal Horticultural Society
- Guerrilla Gardening