I posted pix of the palace last month. This month I’m going to share more photos of the glorious gardens at Kew. I’ve been there twice and will happily go again next time I visit England. It’s an ideal place to spend your jet lag day, out of the urban hustle-bustle, surrounded by greenery and flowers, with well-tended walks and tempting cafes.
It isn’t cheap. Tickets for adults are L15.50 =~ $19.50 =~e18.30. And it’s a bit of journey: you take the Green District line west to Richmond, which is in Zone 4. But you can stay all day. Stroll, eat, browse the shop, visit the palace and the greenhouses, take a nap under a tree…
The exotic garden at Kew Park
The village of Kew, being handy to Richmond Palace, became a locus in the sixteenth for the grand houses of courtiers attending upon their Tudor monarchs. The 300 acres that are now the gardens were once farmed as part of one of those estates.
Then during the eighteenth century, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, the Dowager Princess of Wales, enlarged the exotic garden that Lord Capel John of Tewkesbury had created, no doubt to show off the unusual plants he had collected from the expanding British empire. Curious structures were built to enhance the landscape, like the Chinese pagoda, built in 1761 and still there.
The gardens were formally adopted by the Crown in 1840, so to speak, becoming Royal Botanic Gardens. The first director, William Hooker, gradually enlarged the gardens to their present size, 300 acres.
The Palm House
The first thing you see as you begin your tour is an enormous greenhouse. This photo comes from Wikimedia Commons; I failed to get a good shot of this very large building. This amazing structure was erected between 1844 and 1848, designed by architect Decimus Burton and iron-maker Richard Turner. Wikipedia tells us that “it is considered the world’s most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.”
It’s astounding to enter inside and be suddenly enveloped in rich, warm, wet, tropical air. I didn’t take pictures inside either, fool that I am. I visited this place before I realized how useful photos are for a person who writes a weekly blog.
I did take pictures of the Queen’s Beasts, however, who guard the magnificent greenhouse. The sign says “Each of these ten beasts was once used as an heraldic badge by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II’s forbears and together they symbolize the various strands of the royal ancestry The plaster originals were made by Mr. James Woodford O.B.E., R.A. and placed in front of Westminster Abbey annexe for the coronation of Her Majesty in 1953. These replicas in Portland stone are by the same sculptor and were presented in 1956 by an anonymous donor.”
I really need a griffin like this one of Edward’s. It could guard my front porch.
These gardens aren’t just for strolling and refreshing the city-dweller’s weary soul. Kew Gardens is a major global scientific resource. The botanical collection contains 8.5 million items, according to their website, which “represent over 95% of known flowering plant genera and more than 60% of known fungal genera.” Jiminy Christmas!
Botanists and lovers of growing things, including fungus, can explore a great deal of information about Kew’s collections and the research conducted there online. But I just go there to look at the curious trees, the fields of mind-blowing bluebells, other marvels collected over the several hundred years of the garden’s evolution.
These photos were taken on May 16, 2013. I think I’ve shown you some of them… or is it deja vu? Anyway, the bluebells were at their peak and utterly hypnotic. I strolled slowly through these meadows, enraptured by the glorious blueness of it all. Every now and then I’d vaguely notice another person, strolling enrapture through the glorious blueness of it all. Rapture! Blueness! Serenity! For only $20 and 30 minutes on a train. If you’re ever in London in mid-May, go! Go! Drop everything and go!