My first piece of advice about visiting Kew Gardens is DO NOT GO INTO THE PALM HOUSE FIRST, especially if you’ve just straightened your hair! Think Monica from ‘Friends’ in the Caribbean and you would have a good image of what I looked like afterwards. Without the opportunity to get beaded braids done, I had to just embrace my new scary hair and try to avoid being in photos for the rest of the day.
Other than ‘hair-gate’ the Palm House was incredible, and even though it’s a little like being inside a menopausal hot flush, the plants are fabulous and the atmosphere allows you to pretend that you’ve gone on holiday to the tropics.
Right next to the Palm House is the Waterlily House, which is definitely worth a visit. I wasn’t really expecting much as I walked through the doors into yet another humid environment (Man alive, I wished I’d brought a fan), but I actually gasped when I was faced with lily pads the size of a small sofa. The temptation to curl up on top of one was only cooled by the fact that all the leaves had massive spikes around the bottom to deter hungry fish.
My other favourite plant in the Waterlily House was something straight out of Alice in Wonderland. Never before have I seen what can only be described as giant pink furry caterpillar flowers. I have no idea what they were called, so if anyone can shed some light on these guys I would love to know.
Possibly my favourite area was the Princess of Wales Conservatory which housed an incredible display of cacti. Cacti haven’t exactly featured that highly in my life up to this point, but the number of different types of sharp pointy things all under one roof was mind blowing. Fluffy ones, long ones, stumpy ones, watermelon ones, and evil cucumbers…
And then there’s The Hive. An incredible feat of engineering which gives you a ‘bees eye view’ of life in a hive. Not sure about the piped music running through it thought to be honest.
The Tree Top Walk was lovely to meander round, although as you slowly ascend the stairs, your ears are assaulted by what sounds like the rattling of the metal structure supporting the walkway. It does kind of make you question your sanity as you rise ever higher, only to realise at the top that the noise is coming from a metal pipe which runs top to bottom that people can throw pennies down. Cruel!
There are beautiful views across the grounds and particularly over towards the Temperate House, but be warned if you’re scared of heights, although it’s perfectly safe, you can feel a slight movement underfoot as you wind your way around.
The Temperate House came next, and although there wasn’t much in bloom while we were there, it really was the most wonderful atmosphere and I could just picture myself there alone, lying on a comfortable chaise long, reading a book among the foliage, listening to the trickle of water from the waterfall. Ooooh, where are the toilets?
Leaving my imaginary world behind, we visited Asia next, with the Japanese Gateway replica and the Great Pagoda which dominates the landscape ahead with it’s incredible heigh and it’s shiny green dragons that guard the occupants within.
Without a visit to the interior, which needs to be booked in advance, we decided that it was probably time to head off home. We’d only managed to cover about half the gardens on our visit, but the sun was starting to dip and the only sign that we could see pointing anywhere nearby was for the Compost Heap. What a load of …..
So, Kew Gardens….definitely a beautiful and impressive place to visit. Make sure if you want to cover more ground than we did to get a map on the way in and to give yourself a full day. Also bear in mind the seasons. It sounds obvious, but different species bloom at certain times of the year, so if there’s something in particular that you want to see it makes sense to go when it’s at it’s best.
…..see what I did there!?
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