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Gardens of Earthly Delight: Kew Gardens

By Pamela Robin Brandt

It's food for thought for humble hobby gardeners to consider that Kew, the world's most famous botanical garden, began back in 1759 as an educational hobby for Augusta, Princess of Wales and mother of George III.

Given by the royal family to the state in 1841, this combination public garden/scientific institute displays over 40,000 varieties of living plants -- an estimated 10% of the world's flora -- in its 300 acres on the south bank of the Thames river in Richmond, just outside of London.

Particularly notable garden highlights include the original 18th-Century garden 'follies' designed for the Princess (mock Roman arch ruins, a 10-storey Chinese Pagoda, and an orangery, currently home to a gift shop and restaurant); the classic Victorian glass-and-iron tropical Palm House, containing some of the world's rarest cycads, corals, algae, and rainforest plants; and a brand new attraction: a viewing platform overlooking Kew's huge, steaming compost heaps (free samples available!).

Special events and lectures, four to a dozen scheduled monthly, range from seasonal plant displays to workshops on gardening, environmental art, plant identification, woodland skills, and much more.

Guided tours are offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (and on a slightly more limited basis from November through March).

Access is by tube, bus, and riverboat (summer only) as well as by car.

Tip: For a garden picnic, buy a bag of secret-recipe 'Maids of Honour' tarts, the favourite pastry of portly Henry VIII, from the nearby tea shop that invented them, at 288 Kew Road.

Information:

Where:

Royal Botanic Gardens
Kew
Richmond
Surrey TW9 3AB
UK

Hours:

Open all year from 9:30 a.m.; closing times vary (until March 25, 5:30 p.m.; March 26 to September 3, 6:30 p.m. weekdays and 7:30 p.m. weekends/holidays)

Getting There:

About 10 kilometres southwest of London in Richmond, Kew can be accessed by tube, rail, coach or car. And by riverboat in summer.

Further Info:

For hours: 020 8940 1171
For seasonal events: 020 8332 5655 or 020 8332 5610 (24-hour recorded message)
For adult education/lectures: 020 8332 5626
Website: www.rbgkew.org.uk

For Flights and Airfares to England - click here for the Travel Homepage.

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