|Rubber tree originated from|
Brazil. It oozes white latex that
are used in many products
like car tires, condom, mattress
and gasket. As a child I played
with the rubber seeds in many
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to as Kew Gardens, comprises 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in Richmond upon Thames in southwest London, England. "The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" and the brand name "Kew" are also used as umbrella terms for the institution that runs both the gardens at Kew and Wakehurst Place gardens in Sussex. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is an internationally important botanical research and education institution with 700 staff and an income of £56 million for the year ended 31 March 2008, as well as a visitor attraction receiving almost two million visits in that year. Created in 1759, the gardens celebrated their 250th anniversary in 2009. The director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is responsible for the world's largest collection of living plants. The organisation employs more than 650 scientists and other staff. The living collections include more than 30,000 different kinds of plants, while the herbarium, which is one of the largest in the world, has over seven million preserved plant specimens. The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. The Kew site includes four Grade I listed buildings and 36 Grade II listed structures in an internationally significant landscape.
I took the Tube from Hyde Park, paying for a full day pass at £8.90. However since it was a weekend where London Tube occasionally shutdown for maintenance work, I alighted at Boston Manor station and then took a connecting bus to before continue by Tube to Kew Garden. Tube workers with the Tube logo on their blue tunic were at every station where services were disrupted, and at the connecting bus stops, directing unwary travelers of the disruption. Pity those with huge back which end destination was Heathrow Airport as they had to heaved big bags up and down the stairs/escalators. I alighted at the Kew Garden Station and the garden proper is some 500 meters ahead towards Thames River.
THE ATTRACTIONS IN KEW GARDEN
In March 2006, the Davies Alpine House opened, the third version of an alpine house since 1887. Although only 16 meters long the apex of the roof arch extends to a height of 10 meters in order to allow the natural airflow of a building of this shape to aid in the all important ventilation required for the type of plants to be housed. The new house features a set of automatically operated blinds that prevent it overheating when the sun is too hot for the plants together with a system that blows a continuous stream of cool air over the plants. The main design aim of the house is to allow maximum light transmission. To this end the glass is of a special low iron type that allows 90% of the ultraviolet light in sunlight to pass. It is attached by high tension steel cables so that no light is obstructed by traditional glazing bars. To conserve energy the cooling air is not refrigerated but is cooled by being passed through a labyrinth of pipes buried under the house at a depth where the temperature remains suitable all year round. A design goal of the house is that the maximum temperature will not exceed 20 degrees Celsius. Kew's collection of Alpine plants (defined as those that grow above the tree-line in their locale - ground level at the poles rising to over 2000 metres in the Alps), extends to over 7000 and as the Alpine House can only house around 200 at a time the ones on show are regularly rotated.
Built for the Japan-British Exhibition (1910) and moved to Kew in 1911, the Chokushi-Mon (‘Imperial Envoy's Gateway’) is a four-fifths scale replica of the karamon (gateway) of the Nishi Hongan-ji temple in Kyoto. It lies about 140 m west of the Pagoda and is surrounded by a reconstruction of a traditional Japanese garden.
Kew has one of the largest compost heaps in Europe, made from green waste from the gardens and the waste from the stables of the Household Cavalry. The compost is mainly used in the gardens, but on occasion has been auctioned as part of a fund-raising event for the gardens.
The compost heap is in an area of the gardens not accessible to the general public, but a viewing platform, made of wood seized by Customs HMRC which had been illegally traded, has been erected to allow visitors to observe the heap as it goes through its cycle.
The Palace at Kew
Part of the formal gardens behind the palace
Kew Palace is the smallest of the British royal palaces. It was built by Samuel Fortrey, a Dutch merchant in around 1631. It was later purchased by George III. The construction method is known as Flemish bond and involves laying the bricks with long and short sides alternating. This and the gabled front tend to give the construction a definite Dutch appearance. To the rear of the building is the "Queen's Garden" which includes a collection of plants believed to have medicinal qualities. Only plants that were extant in England by the 17th century are grown in the garden. The building underwent significant restoration before being reopened to the public in 2006. It is administered separately from the gardens.
The Minka House
Following the Japan 2001 festival, Kew acquired a Japanese wooden house called a minka. It was originally erected in around 1900 in a suburb of Okazaki. Japanese craftsmen reassembled the framework and British builders who had worked on the Globe Theatre added the mud wall panels. Work on the house started on 7 May 2001 and when the framework was completed on 21 May, a Japanese ceremony was held to mark what was considered an auspicious occasion. Work on the building of the house was completed in November 2001 but the internal artefacts were not all in place until 2006. The Minka house is located within the bamboo collection in the West central part of the gardens.
The Marianne North Gallery of Botanic Art
The Marianne North Gallery was built in the 1880s to house the paintings of Marianne North, an MP's daughter who traveled alone to North and South America, South Africa and many parts of Asia, at a time when women rarely did so, to paint plants. The gallery has 832 of her paintings. The paintings were left to Kew by the artist and a condition of the bequest is that the layout of the paintings in the gallery may not be altered.
The gallery had suffered considerable structural degradation since its creation and during a period from 2008 to 2009 major restoration and refurbishment took place. During the time the gallery was closed the opportunity was also taken to restore the paintings to their original condition. The gallery reopened in October 2009. The gallery originally opened in 1882 and is the only permanent exhibition in Great Britain dedicated to the work of one woman.
Museum No. 1
Near the Palm House is a building known as "Museum No. 1" (even though it is the only museum on the site), which was designed by Decimus Burton and opened in 1857. Housing Kew's economic botany collections including tools, ornaments, clothing, food and medicines, its aim was to illustrate human dependence on plants. The building was refurbished in 1998. The upper two floors are now an education center and the ground floor houses the "Plants+People" exhibition which highlights the variety of plants and the ways that people use them. Admission to the galleries and museum is free after paying admission to the Gardens.
The Nash Conservatory
Originally designed for Buckingham Palace, this was moved to Kew in 1836 by King William IV. With an abundance of natural light the building is used to house displays of photographs and small, educational exhibitions.
The Orangery was designed by Sir William Chambers, and was completed in 1761. It measures 28 m x 10 m. After many changes of use, it is currently used as a restaurant.
In the South East corner of Kew Gardens stands the Great Pagoda (by Sir William Chambers), erected in 1762, from a design in imitation of the Chinese Ta. The lowest of the ten octagonal storeys is 15 m in diameter. From the base to the highest point is 50 m. Each storey finishes with a projecting roof, after the Chinese manner, originally covered with ceramic tiles and adorned with large dragons; a story is still propagated that they were made of gold and were reputedly sold by George IV to settle his debts. In fact the dragons were made of wood painted gold, and simply rotted away with the ravages of time. The walls of the building are composed of brick. The staircase, 253 steps, is in the center of the building. The Pagoda was closed to the public for many years, but was reopened for the summer months of 2006, now permanently. During the Second World War holes were cut in each floor to allow for drop-testing of model bombs.
The Palm House and Parterre
The Palm House (1844–1848) was the result of cooperation between architect Decimus Burton and iron-founder Richard Turner, and continues upon the glass house design principles developed by John Claudius Loudon and Joseph Paxton. A space frame of wrought iron arches, held together by horizontal tubular structures containing long pre-stressed cables, supports glass panes which were originally tinted green with copper oxide to reduce the significant heating effect. The 19m high central nave is surrounded by a walkway at 9m height, allowing visitors a closer look upon the palm tree crowns.
Princess of Wales Conservatory
Kew's third major conservatory, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, designed by architect Gordon Wilson, was opened in 1987 by Diana, Princess of Wales in commemoration of her predecessor Augusta's associations with Kew. In 1989 the conservatory received the Europa Nostra award for conservation. The conservatory houses ten computer-controlled micro-climatic zones, with the bulk of the greenhouse volume composed of Dry Tropics and Wet Tropics plants. Significant numbers of orchids, water lilies, cacti, lithops, carnivorous plants and bromeliads are housed in the various zones. The cactus collection also extends outside the conservatory where some hardier species can be found. With an area of 4499 square meters the conservatory is designed to minimize the amount of energy taken to run it and to this end the cooler zones are grouped around the outside with the more tropical zones in the central area where heat is conserved. The glass roof extends down to the ground which gives the conservatory a distinctive appearance and helps to maximize the use of the sun's energy. During the construction of the conservatory a time capsule was buried containing the seeds of basic crops and endangered plant species and key publications on conservation.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage
Within the conservation area is a cottage that was given to Queen Charlotte as a wedding present on her marriage to George III. It has been restored by Historic Royal Palaces and is separately administered by them. It is open to the public on weekends and Bank Holidays during the summer.
A rhizotron opened at the same time as the "treetop walkway" giving visitors the opportunity to investigate what happens beneath the ground where trees grow. The rhizotron is essentially a single gallery containing a set of large bronze abstract castings which contain LCD screens that carry repeating loops of information about the life of trees.
The Sackler Crossing
The Sackler Crossing bridge made of granite and bronze opened in May 2006. Designed by Buro Happold and John Pawson, it crosses the lake and is named in honor of philanthropists Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler.
The minimalist styled bridge is designed as a sweeping double curve of black granite and the sides are formed of bronze posts that give the impression, from certain angles, of forming a solid wall whereas from others, and to those on the bridge, they are clearly individual entities that allow a view of the water beyond. It forms part of a path designed to encourage visitors to visit more of the gardens than had hitherto been popular and connect the two art galleries, via the temperate and evolution houses and the woodland glade, to the Minka House and bamboo garden. The crossing won a special award from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2008.
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanic Art
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanic Art opened in April 2008, and holds paintings from Kew's and Dr Shirley Sherwood's collections, many of which had never been displayed to the public before. It features paintings by artists such as Georg D. Ehret, the Bauer brothers, Pierre-Joseph Redouté and Walter Hood Fitch. The paintings and drawings are cycled on a six monthly basis. The gallery is linked to the Marianne North Gallery.
The Temperate House
This greenhouse has twice the floor area of the Palm House and is the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure. It contains plants and trees from all the temperate regions of the world. It was commissioned in 1859 and designed by architect Decimus Burton and iron founder Richard Turner. Covering 4880 square meters, it rises to a height of 19 meters. Intended to accommodate Kew's expanding collection of hardy and temperate plants, it took forty years to construct, during which time costs soared. There is a viewing gallery in the central section from which visitors may look down on that part of the collection.
The "Treetop walkway"
A view of trees and the Temperate House from the treetop walkway
A new treetop walkway opened in 2008. This walkway is 18 meters high and 200 meters long and takes visitors into the tree canopy of a woodland glade. Visitors can ascend and descend by stairs and a lift is available for the disabled. The floor of the walkway is made from perforated metal and flexes as it is walked upon. The entire structure sways in the wind. The image to the left shows a section of the walkway and the steel supports that were designed to rust to a tree-like appearance to help the walkway fit in with its surroundings. There is a short film detailing the construction of the walkway available online.
Kew Explorer is a service that takes a circular route around the gardens, provided by two 72-seaters road trains that are fuel by Calor Gas to minimize pollution. A commentary is provided by the driver and there are several stops. A map of the gardens is available on the Kew Gardens website.
The Waterlily House
The Waterlily House is the hottest and most humid of the houses at Kew and contains a large pond with varieties of water lily, surrounded by a display of economically important heat-loving plants. It closes during the winter months. It was built to house the Victoria Amazonica, the largest of the Nymphaeaceae family of water lilies. This plant was originally transported to Kew in phials of clean water and arrived in February, 1849, after several prior attempts to transport seeds and roots failed. Although various other members of the Nymphaeaceae family grew well, the house did not suit the Victoria, purportedly because of a poor ventilation system, and this specimen, was moved to another, smaller, house.
The ironwork for this project was provided by Richard Turner and the initial construction was completed in 1852. The heat for the house was initially obtained by running a flue from the nearby palm house but it was later equipped with its own boiler.
Plant collections at Kew Garden.
1. The Aquatic Garden
Situated near the Jodrell laboratory, the Aquatic Garden, which celebrated its centenary in 2009, provides conditions for aquatic and marginal plants. The large central pool holds a selection of summer-flowering water lilies whilst the corner pools contain plants such as reed mace, bulrushes, phragmites and smaller floating aquatic species.
2. The Arboretum
The arboretum at Kew covers over half of the total area of the site and contains over 14,000 trees of many thousands of varieties.
3. The Bonsai Collection
The bonsai collection is housed in a dedicated greenhouse near the Jodrell laboratory.
4. The Cacti collection
This is housed in and around the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
5. The Carnivorous Plant collection
This is housed in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
6. The Grass Garden
Created on its current site in the early 1980s to display ornamental and economic grasses the Grass Garden was redesigned and replanted between 1994 and 1997. It is currently undergoing a further redesign and planting. Over 580 species of grasses are displayed.
7. The Herbaceous Grounds (Order Beds)
The Order Beds were devised in the late 1860s by Sir Joseph Hooker, then director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, so that botany students could learn to recognize plants and experience at first hand the diversity of the plant kingdom. The collection is organised into family groups. Its name arose because plant families were known as natural orders in the 19th century. Over the main path is a rose pergola built in 1959 to mark the bicentennial of the Gardens. It supports climber and rambling roses selected for the length and profusion of flowering.
8. The Orchid collection
The orchid collection is housed in two climate zones within the Princess of Wales Conservatory. To maintain an interesting display the plants are changed regularly so that those on view are generally flowering.
9. The Rock Garden
Originally built of limestone in 1882, it is now constructed of Sussex sandstone from West Hoathly, Sussex. The rock garden is divided into six geographic regions: Europe, Mediterranean and Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, North America, and South America. There are currently 2,480 different 'accessions' growing in the garden.
10. The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden, based upon original designs by William Nesfield, is behind the Palm House, and was replanted between 2009 and 2010 using the original design from 1848. It is intended as an ornamental display rather than a collection of a particularly large number of varieties.
11. Other collections
Other collections and specialist areas include the rhododendron dell, the azalea garden, the bamboo garden, the juniper collection, the berberis dell, the lilac garden, the magnolia collection, and the fern collection.
PICTURES CAPTURED DURING THIS TRIP (MAY 2013):