Have you been to Kew Gardens?
One visit is not enough, there is so much to see. Not a gardener? You will still find a visit worthwhile. Spread over 326 acres on the banks of the Thames near Richmond there have been Royal gardens there since 1759. Kew Gardens was founded by Princess Augusta, mother of King George lll and is, according to the visitors’ map, home to the largest and most diverse collection of living plants anywhere in the World.
My first memories of Kew Gardens go back to the early Fifties when my Father, then a botanist, would take us with him on his visits to the Government Herbarium. On one occasion he sent the four of us siblings to wander the gardens until the appointed time when he expected us to be back at the gates to meet him. Bearing in mind that I was only eleven , in charge of the baby in his pushchair and my brother and sister were nine and seven respectively it is a little astonishing the responsibility we were given.
This visit – on the hottest day of the year so far – my friends and I first went straight to the newly re-opened Temperate House. It has taken five years to restore this building and goodness-knows how much money. Plants, including rare and threatened species, have been gathered from all the temperate zones of the World and can be viewed from ground level or from above by climbing (struggling!) up the circular staircase to the walkway. What with the mildly oppressive heat inside the Temperate House plus the number of steps I found myself feeling a bit wobbly after my climb but felt better after a drink of water.
My friend had insisted that there was a treetop walkway in the arboretum at Kew but the rest of us had never heard of it. Lo and behold, as we approached the Arboretum we spotted the tell-tale metal legs indicating an overhead structure. The lift was for visitors with mobility issues but we thankfully scrambled into it to ascend 18 metres up into the tree canopy. I guess we were more impressed with how far we could see over London than looking down at the trees.
Next stop was the Princess of Wales Conservatory. We were able to refill our after bottles from a drinking fountain on the way.What puzzles me is how we managed all those years ago when we did not carry water everywhere we went. Anyway, we meandered through the Conservatory admiring the desert plants and taking photographs. We had spent all afternoon into the early evening and still only covered less than one third of the Gardens. I plan to return later this month to visit The Hive and the Palm House.
Meanwhile I was reflecting on my Father and his plant collections. As a child I was vaguely aware of what he did and recall many family holidays when my Father would be meticulously preparing plant specimens for pressing. So I looked up his name on the Kew Herbarium site. “Boughey” and “Boughey A.S.”:over one thousand entries. Click here.
Have you been to Kew Gardens?