The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in West London is one of the world’s most important botanical gardens. The 132ha (326 acres) large domain boasts a collection of about fifty thousand different plant species as well as many impressive buildings such as the Palm House and the ten-story Pagoda.
The Royal Botanic gardens are “Royal” because for many years the estates that now form the gardens were owned by members of Britain’s royal family tourist travel. King George II and Queen Caroline lived at Ormonde Lodge, on the Richmond estate. Their son and heir, Prince Frederick, leased the neighbouring Kew estate in the 1730s.
The whole domain encompasses an impressive 132ha (326 acres), with about 50,000 different species of plants to discover. Some areas are formally laid out with flower beds or themed Royal Botanic gardens such as the large alpine garden. A large part of the domain is laid out in English style. The western part of the domain in particular, Syon Vista, Kew Gardens, London with its wide open vistas, invites you to casually stroll through the gardens. If you find the walk too long you can always take a ride on the Kew Explorer, a hop on and off trolley that tours the Royal botanic gardens.
The history of the botanical garden goes back to 1759, when Princess Augusta, The famous Palm House at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London mother of king George III, started developing a 3.6 ha large garden at the domain of White Lodge, Richmond in west London with the help of gardener William Aiton and botanist Lord Bute. William Chambers designed several structures for the garden , including the orangery and the pagoda. The botanical garden actually occupied just a small part of the garden, the rest was designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
The Royal Botanic gardens today present an enjoyable mix of landscaped lawns, formal gardens, and greenhouses. Equally important, Kew functions as a botanical research centre and maintains the largest plant collection in the world. The various greenhouses display plants from across the world in climate controlled environments, while Kew Gardens Gallery houses art and photographs illustrating botanical themes. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage (open only in summer) is a pretty summerhouse nestled in the woods.
A very popular attraction at the Kew Gardens is the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, a platform eighteen meters (59 ft) above the ground. The walkway was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, Treetop Walkway, Kew Gardens, London the same people responsible for the London Eye. Opened in May 2002, the two-hundred meter (656ft) long walkway gives you an opportunity to explore the treetop canopy and experience the trees and surroundings from a completely different perspective.
The most famous of the many greenhouses at Kew is the Palm House, built between 1844 and 1848. The magnificent glass and iron structure was designed by Decimus Burton and Richard Turner. The graceful ironwork structure is among the finest buildings of its era. Inside the Palm House you find plants from the Tropical Rainforest. Make sure you walk up the spiral staircase to the footbridge where temperature and humidity are at its highest.