I just love spring! After the winter gloom, the season awakens from its slumber to welcome a fresh energy bringing forth new shoots in plants and spring blooms. This is the best time to visit parks and gardens in England, a country famous for its horticulture, landscaped gardens and botanical science. One of my favourite gardens is the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London, more popularly known as Kew Gardens. It is world renowned for its botanical and mycological knowledge that facilitate a research and educational institution attracting scientists and botanists from all over the world. Its incalculable contributions to further the science of understanding plants and fungi and their innumerable benefits to mankind, as well as its world-class attractions has earned Kew Gardens a place in UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is also well known for its “forensic horticulture” giving advice and guidance to police forces globally where plant materials may provide important clue or evidence in criminal cases. Its royal connection and foundation harked back to 257 years ago when it opened in 1759. Today it has the largest collection of living plants in the world spanning over 300 acres of gardens and botanical glasshouses. It was also the place that successfully propagated rubber trees for cultivation outside South America in the 19th century.
Royal Botanical Gardens Kew:The Colours Of Spring
Spring in Royal Botanical Gardens Kew is like a perfumery of heady fragrances and a carnival of colours. Nothing can beat the soul-stirring sight of flowers grown en masse like the carpets of showy tulips of orange, lilac, pink and white while the daffodils are like fields of gold. The woods are awash with purple hue from the sea of bluebells carpeting the ground under the trees. It looks like out of a Monet painting.
While I am still dazzled by the beauty of the floral display that I have just witnessed, the sight of the Japanese cherry blossoms in full regalia takes my breath away. The Cherry Walk is a sight to behold with an avenue of cherry trees festooned with pink and white blossoms, their branches drooping under the weight of the blooms while the ground is strewn with fallen petals like confetti at a wedding. Elsewhere in the gardens, camellias and magnolia jostle for attention with their large blooms in pink, white and red. By a pond, a peacock struts its stuff showing off its flamboyant fantail feathers of the most exquisite colours of iridescent blue and green while its companion, a peahen, with brown and grey plumes looks dowdy in comparison.
The joy of walking through Kew Gardens not only gives me the benefit from a gentle exercise but the sheer enjoyment of feasting my eyes on the plethora of botanical wonder. There are rare and majestic trees (I have a thing about trees); exotic tropical plants in the humid Palm House hailed as the most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure in the world and the Water Lilly House that contains some of the world’s largest and smallest species of water lilies.
Royal Botanical Gardens Kew: A Touch Of Eastern Wonder
At the southern end of the garden, a vista leads my eyes to the iconic Chinese Pagoda built in 1762 towering at 163ft high in a ten-storey octagonal structure.
The Japanese Garden adds another eastern touch with its Chokushi-Mon or Gateway of the Imperial Messenger modelled after the Nishi Hongan-Ji temple in Kyoto. A traditional Japanese garden of peace and harmony with its iconic raked pebble design is landscaped beside it. Another educational attraction is the Princess of Wales Conservatory equipped with ten computer-controlled micro-climatic zones featuring “Dry Tropic and Wet Tropic”, orchids, water lilies, cacti, carnivorous plants and mangrove trees. Kew Gardens also has the largest Herbarium in the world with a staggering seven million specimens for research and study.
Royal Botanical Gardens Kew: Walking high among the Trees
For a bit of a thrill, I decide to climb the Treetop Walkway in the Arboretum to enjoy an aerial view of the woodland and glade. It is 18m high and 200m long in a circular design constructed from rusted steel columns to blend with the natural environment. From this lofty position I am up close and personal with the canopies of sweet chestnut and oak trees and spy on birds and insects. There is a lift to take visitors to the top of the Walkway but I decide to take a bit of exercise by huffing and puffing my way to the top. Before reluctantly leaving the glorious gardens, I hope on to the Kew Explorer, a 72-seater tram that takes visitors on a circuitous route round the gardens with a commentary. There is still so much to see and I must make a return visit to see the verdant gardens and its luxuriant blooms in summer. Kew Gardens change its spirit every season to uplift the spirits of its visitors.
Details of the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew and opening time and ticket prices can be found on www.kew.org