I adore a good garden, and my time in London recently has encouraged a growing obsession with outdoor spaces. There was something truly breathtaking about the English gardens I experienced. Time seems to slow down within them, and they possess a softness that doesn’t quite exist in Australia. When planning my time in London, I discovered that the Temperate House in Kew Gardens has just reopened after years of renovation. This knowledge paired with the blossoming buds I knew awaited me in the famous gardens caused me to put Kew at the top of my to-do list.
For new-to-London travellers like me you will find Kew Gardens extremely easy to get to- a simple train trip from central London and a short and well-signed walk to the garden gates. I recommend bringing a picnic lunch with you. I spent a blissful lunch in a secluded part of the gardens, watching the cheeky breeze play with willow branches, and listening to a menagerie of wild birds serenading each other. This is particularly wonderful after days or weeks spent in bustling London.
Once you arrive, take some time to plan your visit, as there is an abundance of botanic life to immerse yourself in. Today I am sharing some highlights from my adventure.
Temperate House (newly re-opened)
The Temperate House holds some of the most exotic and endangered plants in the world. Exploring this steel and glass palace is like travelling across the globe via garden beds. If you’re the type, you can studiously read the paragraphs of information outlining where the plants are from, why they are so precious and Kew Garden’s conservation efforts. What a treat this sanctuary is for botany enthusiasts!
You will find the woodlands in the far northwest corner of Kew Gardens. Fellow travellers are few and far between up here, so you have more peace to indulge your rambling thoughts as you stroll along rambling paths.
These woodlands were the woodlands of my imagination, evoking childhood dreams of Christopher Robin and Peter Rabbit.
I half expected to see Tigger bouncing across my path. This peaceful corner is where you will find carpets of bluebells lazing under the shade of swaying branches. I adored my quiet hour spent in this part of Kew; the sun was softly warming, a lullaby of birdcalls played and the green light was deliciously gentle.
More colourful and ostentatious than other areas of the garden, the Rhododendron Walk is where you are likely to come across Instagrammers and tourists posing by walls of towering blooms. The bushes are absolutely astonishing- tall, thick and dripping with an array of perfectly-formed flowers. I enjoyed walking through this garden, but did find the numerous sightseers made this much less peaceful than areas such as the woodlands.
The Palm House
The Palm House is one of the central features of Kew Gardens, and it does not disappoint. In fact, it was surprisingly one of my favourite areas to spend time in. Entering the slowly rusting steel lacework structure, complete with snaking spiral staircases and detailed balustrade feels like stepping back in time, to an age obsessed with botanical discovery.
The soaring structure bursting with life took me back to Elizabeth Gilbert’s extraordinary novel The Signature of All Things. Read it if you have any interest in botany, exploration, history or intriguing female protagonists. I was completely captivated by the Palm House which is filled to its’ soaring roof with ancient ferns and palms that I’d never previously had much interest in.
Even without peering through your camera lens, the experience ranges from incredibly micro (seeds and minute flowers) to breath-taking-ly macro (ancient towering palms and oversized leaves).
There are many other stunning places to spend time in at Kew- you could easily fill one or even two days intermittently lazing under willows, playing with peacocks or studying botany with the best of them. If I return to London at any stage, Kew Gardens will definitely receive a second visit.