Visiting Kew Gardens has been a lifelong wish of mine and this Summer I managed to do so. Starting in 1759 and becoming a UNESCO site in 2003, Kew is truly a UK jewel. Not only is the collection of plant life staggering, the architecture, size and pure variety of habitats they have recreated makes for an awe-inspiring visit.
Inside the Palm House, great banana palms reach up towards the sky. Beneath them other familiar, yet no less exotic, plants grow. Vanilla, ginger, ylang ylang and black pepper plants were all seen beneath the shadows of the canopy. Outside the sun is so hot it scorches the grass, ice cream vendors are selling out left, right and centre and we continue on our way.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory is next, a much more modern glass house, containing everything from cacti to orchids and pineapple plants. We walked through ten different temperature and humidity controlled areas, each feeling like a snippet of paradise. Bizarre succulent plants and spiny evergreens from Madagascar sat yards away from bromeliads that ring of tropical rainforests. The knowledge and effort put into creating and maintaining a place as spectacular as this is beyond thinking.
We dined in the Orangery, a vast white building with windows that reach to the roof, cool bottled beers and ciders awaited us alongside cakes and vast pans of delicious food. I chose the roasted vegetables with a slice of samphire tart which did just the job. Moving on.
We finally arrive at Kew Palace, the former home of King George III. A smart red brick building resembling a life-size dollhouse, perfectly symmetrical and square, complete with people dressed in costumes of the times going about their daily business. The gardens here really caught my eye. Behind the house were two gardens, one ornamental and soulless, one functional and full of life. The herb garden contained every English herb imaginable, everything with a culinary or medical use. It was the most beautiful thing I saw all day in a wild and very useful way.
For the rest of the day we idled through beautiful gardens, smelling aromatic Mediterranean groves and passing through Oriental woodlands. We even dozed under trees and watched the clouds.
I will be back Kew, I will make sure of that.