The Wonders of Kew Gardens
Unfortunately, I can’t give you the full sensory experience of walking through Kew Gardens in this blog post. It’s hard to fully encapsulate the vibrant colours of the array of plants and flowers are almost overwhelming, and the way that everything seems carefully considered and beautifully maintained. It’s the different smells and fragrances that all of these plants give off too, that adds to the experience. But I’ve taken a particularly large selection of photos to at least try. I had always had a trip to Kew at the back of my list of things to do in London. Admittedly, I assumed botanical gardens are all a bit same-y and maybe it wasn’t worth the trip to Richmond, but on this score I was definitely wrong.
The journey there was painless, we got a Southwestern train from Waterloo to Kew, and then it was a short walk from the station to the gardens. The setting is lovely, Kew has a village feel, albeit a village that is definitely still linked to London. Whilst we were there, there was actually a small fete going on in one of the parks, which added to the day-trip feel of our visit.
The best time to visit Kew is obviously on a sunny or at least dry day, to be able to appreciate Kew in its entirety. But don’t despair if the day you plan to visit, or the only day you can visit, is set to be a rainy one. There is still plenty to do inside, and Kew actually changes its programme of activities and attractions around the seasons too, so it’s worth checking the website. We really enjoyed Kew palace, a historical building that used to house the royal family when they visited Kew, and now provides a basis for Kew’s history and also a history of George III if you’re interested. Surrounding the palace is a really quaint garden, including a herb garden that focuses on historic remedies and medicines.
Also under covers are Kew’s main attractions, the conservatories. Unfortunately the Temperate House is closed for restoration for the foreseeable future, and I’d love to return when it reopens. However, the iconic Palm House is worth the visit to Kew alone. I don’t know whether it was the Victorian structure and how it juxtaposed with the amazing varieties of palms and other tropical plants, but I found the Palm House particularly unique and quite unlike anything I’d seen before. As you can see from my pictures below, you are able to climb stairs to the top section of the Palm House, which allows you to see the collection from new and interesting perspectives.
Don’t forget to look out for the water dragons that populate the Prince of Wales conservatory. We hadn’t read up about them before so were completely taken by surprise when we found one chilling on a ledge. The Prince of Wales conservatory has two different sections with two different climate conditions. It not only houses a great collection of tropical plants, and but also an impressive amount of cacti and succulents.
Finally, one of my favourite smaller conservatories, was the water lily house. This is mostly because I particularly love water lilies, and Kew’s collection was pretty impressive.
Outside, a particularly sensory experience, not to be missed, is a walk around the rose garden. Although the torrential rain that had preceded our visit had battered some of the rose bushes, it was still gorgeous, and it actually seemed to boost the scents coming from each rose variety.
Another incredible section was the Japanese-inspired gardens. Although, up-close, the Victorian built Pagoda is a bit disappointing and clunky, the peace gardens around the Pagoda are lovely.
New to Kew was the Hive, which blended in so well to the landscape we almost couldn’t find it (or maybe that’s our terrible map reading skills). It’s a great piece of art, which gives a mesmerising, abstract experience of standing within a hive, with led lights and a faint buzzing stimulating the movement of bees.
What surprised me the most was that, although Kew is obviously centred around plants and gardens, you don’t have to be obsessed with gardening or horticulture to have a really enjoyable day at Kew. In fact there was a huge variety of people and families there when we visited. I think this is down to how relaxed the place is, you can wander at your leisure all day, taking in as little or as much of the information offered as you want. Also, despite the amount of visitors to the gardens, it was never overwhelmingly busy, except for maybe in the cafes, and you could still have a relaxing and peaceful day walking through some of the more secluded pathways.