Kew Gardens lies on the south bank of the Thames River in the suburbs of southwest London. Away from the hustle of the busy, built-up areas, it is worth a trip - Kew Gardens Station is only 30 minutes from central London. The area is one of total peacefulness and tranquillity. The gardens are popular, especially in the spring and summer when so many roses and other plants are out and the scents waffle along as you walk. The place makes for an ideal lazy day.
The 300 acres contains more than 25,000 varieties of different plants.
The gardens are "royal" because for many years members of Britain’s royal family owned the two estates, Richmond and Kew, now forming the gardens.
At the Dutch house (Kew Palace), George II and III and their Queens spent happy days. Restored over the years, the house still contains relics of that time.
Princess Augusta, George III’s mother, began the gardens in 1759. She had the present Orangery, Pagoda, and Ruined Arch created. In 1760, George III furthered the work by calling in the garden architect Capability Brown to landscape the park. Under George III and unofficial director Joseph Banks, Kew Gardens flourished. He dispatched assistants across the globe to gather rare, unusual, and interesting botanical specimens. In 1840, the gardens became state property. The new director Sir William Hooker founded the Museum, the Department of Economic Botany, the Library, and the Herbarium.
The gardens now present a mix of landscaped lawns, formal gardens, and greenhouses. It also functions as a botanical research centre and preserves the largest plant collection in the world. The various greenhouses display plants from across the world in climate-controlled environments, while Kew Gardens Gallery houses art and photographs showing botanical themes. Queen Charlotte's Cottage is a summerhouse alongside a lake.
Spectacular buildings such as the Orangery, the Temperance House, and the Palm House shelter plants. The latter is a marvel of glass and iron - inside its humid interior, spectacles immediately mist over. The Chinese Pagoda built in 1761 offers panoramic views through a camera mounted 50m high. It is one of Kew's most recognizable buildings.
The garden doesn’t just deal with present plant forms. Evolution House, a small glass building, contains displays showing changing plant life on earth. The Wood Museum explains how to make paper and shows examples of inlaid wood cabinetry.
The gardens are full of beauty, with interesting and tranquil walks. You can discover something new in the park every time you take a walk. The Grass Garden alone has over 600 varieties. Kew remains one of the world's leading public gardens.
Admission: Adults £8.50, children free.
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October 21, 2004
The garden is split into eight zones over 300 acres, and a nice way to get an overall idea of what’s within each zone is to take the trolley ride. You can purchase your ticket at the entrance or just hop on at any stop and pay the driver. It runs by the hour and you can get off at one of the scheduled stops, tour the area for an hour, and then get back on and ride to the next stop. Be sure to visit the Palm House, which houses a multitude of plant life from all over the world. Even if you don’t have a chance to visit the gardens in person, visit the fabulous Kew Gardens website.
From journal Spring Vacation in My Favorite City
Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom
October 7, 2004
From journal A Royal Tour of London
December 6, 2002
From journal Minibreak: London