Travel Pic Thursday – Kew Gardens Part Three (UK)

Well, the weather here Portland isn’t exactly get-out-in-the-garden weather, but that’s no reason to not continue on our virtual garden tour of Kew Gardens situated just a short Tube hop away from the heart of London.

The previous two weeks, we’ve roamed around Kew’s Palm House and the other glass houses that are pretty impressive, but the whole point of going to a botanical garden is usually to get outside and look at some plants. So this time, we’re getting outside and roaming the grounds of Kew Garden.

There are dozens of theme gardens within Kew Gardens, and even with a whole day there, I didn’t see all of them, so there’s no way I’m going to try to cover everything in what is meant to be a quick blog post. Instead, let’s just look at some quick facts and then climb up to one of the garden’s newest features: The Treetop Walkway.

Some gardens have a natural look, others are quite formal.

Some gardens have a natural look, others are quite formal.

Kew Garden Quick Facts

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Travel Pic Thursday: Kew Gardens’ Houses of Glass (UK)

After stopping for a warm up inside the Palm House, this week we’re continuing on our stroll through few of Kew Gardens other indoor attractions: the Temperate House, the Waterlily House, and the Princess of Wales Conservatory. The landscape architects of Kew Gardens clearly understood the need for cover with the UK’s weather (it rains now and then) and each of these glass wonders is a great place to wait for a shower to pass by.

The Waterlily House

  • Because it was built specifically for the six-foot in diameter giant Amazonian water lilies (another fad of the Victorian age), this greenhouse was built wide. In fact, when it was built in 1852, the Waterlily House was the widest greenhouse in the world.
  • Unfortunately, the Victorians didn’t quite understand how to care for these botanic wonders and the Waterlily House had to become simply a tropical plant home in 1866. It wasn’t until 1991 that the lily pads were brought back (and have so far survived).
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Not the biggest of the big lilies, but still pretty impressive compared to my water lilies.

The Temperate House

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Travel Pic Thursday: The Palm House at Kew Gardens (UK)

Thanks to a cheap flight and some rapid vacation planning, I had the good fortune to be in London for my birthday last year. Because I love gardening and all things botanical, I made plans to trek out to Kew Gardens for my birthday outing. Kew Gardens is huge, so rather than overwhelming you with a rambling description of all 300 acres of garden glory, I’ll break it down into a few bite-size posts over the next few weeks. Our first stop on our garden tour is the Palm House.

kew gardens, london, uk, palm house

The Palm House isn’t really sliding off the planet, I’m just a bit off kilter with my camera skills sometimes.

The Kew Gardens’ Palm House Quick Facts

  • The Palm House was built over four years, starting in 1844.
  • The design was borrowed from the shipbuilding world. The Palm House is essentially an overturned boat with wrought iron serving as the “ship’s” beams.
  • In between those bits of wrought iron are about 16,000 panes of glass. So, no throwing of stones!
  • The greenhouse was specifically designed to house the palm trees that were all the rage in Victorian England at the time.
  • The oldest tree is a cycad that was brought to Kew in 1775.
  • In 1984, a four-year project began to give the building an overhaul. The entire collection of plants was dug out and the building dismantled, given a tidying up, and reassembled – sort of like a huge and very fragile jigsaw puzzle. Most of the plants were then put back into place.
  • The Palm House contains palm trees from Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific. In addition to palms, there are other tropical plants such as coffee trees, sugar cane, and rubber trees.
  • A wrought-iron spiral staircase takes you to a somewhat narrow catwalk that allows you to walk amongst the tree tops.
  • Afraid of heights? You can head to the basement to check out the aquarium that replicates coral reefs, mangrove swamps, shorelines, and salt marshes.
kew gardens, london, uk, palm house

Peering down from the catwalk. Meow!

Kew is an easy 40-minute Tube ride from central London. For more information, check out the Kew Gardens website, or simply follow this blog over the next few weeks.

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There’s also a great collection of stone critters outside the Palm House.


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