A late autumn day in Kew Gardens
Local markets & botanic gardens are always on my to-do list when I travel. This time, in London, I ticked a bucket list item – the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, aka the Kew Gardens.
I first overheard the name “Kew Gardens” many years ago and since then have wondered how magnificent this place would be. When I saw Sir David Attenborough talking about some fascinating plants in one of the glass houses there, a couple years back, I added this place to my bucket list!
I was on my way to Dublin, when I made a stopover in London to visit Kew. Located on the west side of central London (between Heathrow and central London), this is a 300-acre park with gardens, glasshouses, conservation & science units, and even its own police force (apparently called Kew Constabulary, which has been in operation since 1847).
Speaking of the history of Kew, it has been dated as formally starting in 1759, and can be traced back to an exotic garden at Kew Park. There are many attractions and it can easily take up a full day if you plan to see all of them.
Temperate House –
Unfortunately, this one is currently closed for restoration. This is the world’s largest surviving Victorian glass structure, commissioned in 1859, and it took 40 years to construct. This 19 metre high glass house covers a total of 4880 square metres… something you will not miss spotting when you walk around in Kew.
Palm House –
This one was built even earlier than the Temperate House, from 1844 to 1848.
The shape of the Palm House reminds me an upside down boat, and according to some books, that’s exactly how it was designed. The first of its kind, this Palm House was designed and built with ship-building techniques with no pillars inside. Also a 19 metre high glasshouse, a walkway at the centre allows visits to go up to 9 metres high and look upon the palm tree crowns. It was indeed very warm & extremely humid in the glasshouse, a true paradise for tropical plants to grow and thrive.
Some plants are even older than the Palm House. The king of the Palm House, the huge Jurassic cycad, Encephalartos altensteinii was collected by Kew’s first plant hunter Francis Masson, from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa in the early 1770s!
Princess of Wales Conservatory –
This is the most complex glass house of Kew Gardens, known for plants from ten different climate zones. My favourites are those fascinating cacti of all sizes and colours, miniature “stone flowers” of all shapes, and many “bug eaters” plants.
It was a shame that I was not able to see the so-called “Titan arum” – the giant of the plant kingdom, known for its humongous flower and rather unpleasant “dead body” smell…
The Waterlily House might be the smallest glass house in the Kew Gardens, but it doesn’t mean it has small plants. This glass house is known for the giant Amazon waterlilies. First discovered in Bolivia in 1801 and later named Victoria amazonica in honour of Queen Victoria. One of several V. amazonica plants germinated at Kew in the mid-19th century was sent to architect Joseph Paxton and the structure of the waterlily’s leaf is said to have inspired his design for the Crystal Palace which housed the Great Exhibition of 1851! Unfortunately, I didn’t see a large one that day. But flowers in this glasshouse are plenty.
Walking in the gardens is a pure joy, even on a mid-November day. However Kew is not that far from Heathrow airport, and you definitely won’t miss the airplanes flying over your head.
Suddenly this golden English Platanus appeared. This captures late autumn…
For the convenience, I picked up a BnB just around the corner, it’s called Kew Garden BnB! A lovely grey house with just three rooms (the Blue, the Gray & the Pink). The room decor is so very British, and the host has put all the necessary amenities. The breakfast was simple but delightful! I was well taken care of by Ana, lovely host lady from Poland. Take note that the Kew Garden train station is only just a short walk from the property, so going to central London is also very convenient, just a matter of hopping on the train.
Staying so close to the Kew Gardens gives me the opportunity to walk around the village area and enjoy the typical scenery of England. People living in the neighbourhood of Kew Gardens obviously have a fondeness for plants too.
In the lovely streets with townhouses one after another, you’ll see every house / apartment has its own little garden or garden-ish space for plants and flowers.
Late in autumn, there are berries of all colours. Some are clearly ready for the Xmas decor theme!
As the sun started to set it was time to leave the Kew. On the way home I’d highly recommend you to step in the shop house of Kew Gardens, despite what level of gardening skills you have, this is a nice place to find some gifts for friends and family 🙂
Last but not least, if you are ever interested in a visit to Kew, here is a short video from them. I hope you’ll have the chance to go there one day.