Something which has been on my bucket list for a while now is Kew Botanical Gardens. So, as a nice surprise birthday treat for my mum, we decided to go.
It was a horrible, drizzly day and we arrived far too late to fully explore – due to the closure of the District Line… – but it still enthralled us in its culture and history. In the winter months, admission is reduced to £10.80 for an adult ticket because some areas are closed. However, we timed it perfectly with their Orchid Festival, which definitely made up for not seeing everything.
We began in the Palm House, where we saw plants from all over the world – from the Americas to Australasia. But I was most taken by the architecture. Beautiful, ornate metal work with twisting staircases, it was like something out of a Victorian fairy tale. But of course, that is exactly what it was, with experts considering Kew’s Palm house to be the most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure in the world.
It was designed by Decimus Burton and engineered by Richard Turner in the same style as the shipbuilding industry. This is why it can look like an upturned hull from a distance. The result is a vast, light, lofty space that accommodates the height of large palm trees and allowed for the introduction of such species to Europe in the early Victorian era.
We then dodged the rain into the Princess of Wales Conservatory, where the Orchid festival was taking place. We had been informed at the front desk that some areas were off-limits due to the festival, so believed we wouldn’t be able to see any of it. This was not the case. Other than the parts being worked on, we were able to wander freely through the orchids and see all of the wonderful displays.
The festival celebrates how plants are used in India and Indian culture in worship, medicine, and everyday life. Inspired by the vibrant colours and magnificent plant life of India, the festival featured huge floral displays of exotic orchids, decorated rickshaws and animals made out of flowers. It was really beautiful and the colours truly reflected the culture and traditions of India
The conservatory is a myriad of different climates and you can wander from desert to rainforest – and easily become lost too! We spent a long time discovering all of the different plants and photographing the orchids, before heading towards a new feature at Kew: the Hive.
The Hive was designed by UK artist Wolfgang Buttress, originally as the centrepiece of the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, and reflects the life of a bee hive. Inspired by scientific research into the health of bees, the installation uses multisensory elements to give an insight into the real live workings of a hive. The structure is made from thousands of pieces of aluminium and is fitted with hundreds of LED bulbs that glow and fade to the real-life rhythms of the bee hives in Kew.
There was such an atmosphere created within the structure and it was incredible to get a small insight into the world of bees.
After a short walk through the walled and alpine gardens, we came across a gallery where we found intricate drawings of orchids. It was fascinating to see these anatomical drawings from as far back as the eighteenth century and read a little bit about current beliefs at the time.
It was a lovely trip despite the rain, and we agreed we must go back when the sun is shining to spend a whole day exploring top to bottom.