England's Kew Gardens: A Museum of Botanical Life
During my Collette tour of English gardens, I spent a day wandering around the remarkable Kew garden in a plant-besotted stupor. Established in 1759 and extending over 327 acres, the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew is practically a theme park of growing, a reminder of the astounding diversity of the natural world.
There are treasures around every corner, and an array of awe-inspiring garden “rooms:” a Japanese garden and Great Pagoda designed by William Chambers in 1762, a woodland garden, 19th century rock garden and vegetable gardens, among many others. A celebration of plant life from around the globe, there are groves dedicated to redwoods, azaleas, magnolias and rhododendron. A water lily house so steamy your glasses and camera lens immediately fog up upon entry features waterborne flowers in hallucinatory neon colors. Walks between the countless garden tableaux are punctuated by centuries-old trees that dot its landscape like living temples to time’s passage.
Throughout the decades, Kew's design has profited from the talents of such renowned landscape architects as Charles Bridgeman, William Kent, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and William Chambers and the garden remains an essential visit for garden tourists.
- Kew boasts one of the largest compost heaps in Europe.
- Kew participates in the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, the largest plant conservation partnership in the world. In this program seeds of the most imperiled plants, and of the most use to the future, are conserved outside of their native habitats.
- In 2003 Kew was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for illustrating significant periods of the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
- Kew contains the largest Victorian greenhouse in existence, the Temperate House.
- The experts working at Kew are an important resource in forensic plant science and aid the police in solving crimes in which botanical materials are involved.
- Kew contains the world's largest collection of orchids.