With spring in full bloom and the sun gracing us with her presence almost daily, an afternoon outdoors was long overdue.
As unplanned as this trip to Kew Gardens was, I’m glad my friend Yuqi convinced me to join her. The Royal botanical gardens are a perfect example of what happens when you take super great care of fresh grass, indigenous plants, flowers and aquatic life – a whole ecosystem is born and thrives, gifting us its natural, effervescent beauty.
The gardens are located in the historic town of Kew which is in London’s south west borough, Richmond. Founded in 1840, the gardens, also known as Kew Gardens is the largest collection of living plants in the world. I won’t go into much about the history of the place but just know it came about thanks to the merging of two back yards belonging to two royal palaces, ha! Who would have thought it?
It took us quite a while to get there yet we were already in the city, so please note the commuting time (1hr from zone 2, central london) when planning your journey. The Kew area, albeit matching its Royal gardens, reminds me a little of a seaside town. Kinda like Newport beach or Laguna in California – grand houses line up the streets and cute boutique shops and cafes make the place come alive as you walk down from Kew station towards the gardens.
The actual arboretum itself, as I have mentioned before – STUNNING. After paying the entrance fee of £15 (which by the way is a bit much in my opinion), we were handed some maps and the adventure began. I have never seen such perfectly manicured grass in my life and I’m really not a fan of lying down on the grass, mostly because I get super itchy afterwards. But I sacrificed this time just so I could feel the soft carpet that was this grass. We ended up taking a mini nap after walking around for an hour on said grass – don’t sue me, other people were doing it too!
There is so much to see and do here, it felt like walking through a jungle, a rose garden and a palace all at the same time. I highly recommend visiting the Palm house, a huge herbatorium that is considered the world’s most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure, designed in the early Victorian times. It houses various palm trees of course, indigenous plants, fruit trees, hardwood trees and herbs alike. The atmosphere felt like a sauna by the beach with the humidity embracing you and the palm trees towering over you all at once. I was quite happy to see the plant that produces black pepper corns for the first time. May I say a huge thanks to whoever discovered it? Black pepper is life.
Another great thing to do here is take a hike up to the treetop walkway. It’s a steep climb up the stairs (there’s a lift available) but the view at the top is so worth it. Another hour of walking got us so exhausted while searching for the Waterlily house – which by the way was right infront of us the whole time. I don’t know how I missed that yet I was following the map so well. But as most of my friends know… I’m not the best at directions, oops.
Glad we didn’t give up though, the Waterlily house was my favourite part of the gardens, despite how hot it is inside there. It has a large pond where various water lilies grow within it. The house was built to shelter the largest of the Nymphaeaceae family of water lilies – Victoria amazonica in 1852. A flower with such a grand name would obviously need such a grand home.
The area is also ideal for picnics and they hold a lot of events especially in the summer time such as Kew the music and Kew the movies, love what they did there. If I talk about all the places in the gardens, there’ll be nothing left for you to actually want to come and see so I’ll stop here and let you discover the rest. If you are ever looking for a simple yet enjoyable way to spend a sunny afternoon, Kew gardens is a must see item when in London.
Kew gardens are open from 10am to 6:30pm on weekdays and from 10am to 7:30pm on weekends.
Feature image by Darya Luganskaya