Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: has an area of 121 hectares (300 acres) and is situated on the banks of the Thames River between Kew and Richmond in southwest London. Before Kew became a national botanical institute, kings and other “royals” lived on or owned the land and buildings at the present site.
George III and his wife Queen Charlotte inherited the estate in 1760. Sir Joseph Banks (of Botany Bay fame) became an unofficial director of the estate. He directed collectors to scour the world seeking plants of economic, scientific or horticultural interest. These collections included many Australian species.
After the deaths of both George III and Sir Joseph in 1820, the Botanic Gardens went into decline. In 1840 they were handed over to the State.
After the state took control, interest in the Gardens was revived. The Palm House (see image) is the centrepiece of the Gardens. It was constructed between 1844 and 1848 and houses tropical plants including palms. The central section is tall enough to house a fully-grown palm.
During the 1860’s the Temperate House was constructed. This is home to a wide range of plants from the temperate regions of the world. Australia is represented by a number of natives, including Correa Dusky Bells, Hakea suaveolens and Melaleuca elliptica.
More recent buildings include the Princess of Wales Conservatory (1987), The Sir Joseph Banks Building (1990) and the Victoria Gate Visitor Centre (1992).
Moving outside away from the buildings we found a surprising range of Australian plants. These will be covered in Kew’s Horticultural Surprises. The Kew Alpine House was another area that caught our eye.
If you visit London then Kew gardens are well worth a visit. The London Underground serves Kew railway station. There is plenty to see and the Garden’s Coffee Shop serves excellent hot chocolate.