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
Royal Botanic Gardens
Surrey TW9 3AB
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)
About 10 kilometres southwest of London in Richmond, Kew
can be accessed by tube, rail, coach or car. And by riverboat
For hours: 020 8940 1171
For seasonal events: 020 8332 5655 or 020 8332 5610 (24-hour
For adult education/lectures: 020 8332 5626
For Flights and Airfares to England - click
here for the Travel Homepage.
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