Kew Gardens has long been a destination for garden visitors. The magnificent Victorian Palm House is real draw, being the most important surviving example in the world and housing a vast array of exotic palms and ferns from around the globe. In addition the modern Princess of Wales conservatory features a staggering array of cacti, orchids and other species, recreating 10 climatic zones. The Orangery, built in 1761 serves as a magnificent cafe and the entire garden spans a staggering 300 acres.
Founded in 1840, the importance of Kew is not to be underestimated. Housing more than 30,000 plant species, Kew also holds a library of over 750,000 books. The gardens are too vast to take in on a single visit and even more so now that the new Great Broad Walk has been created. At 320 metres long, the newly planted double herbaceous borders line the route of the original broad walk path, running through the centre of the gardens from the Orangery to the Palm House.
THE OPENING OF THE GREAT BROAD WALK BORDERS
It was a privilege to attend the grand opening of the Great Broad Walk Borders recently and on a somewhat cloudy (but thankfully dry) June evening the new area was declared open. Containing nearly 30,000 plants the emphasis is on summer colour although bulbs will provide a focus in the spring. Even in its infancy the bones of the planting show promise of dense swathes of colour. Designed to be viewed from both the 8 metre wide gravel path and from the lawns behind, the plants are arranged subtle circles interspersed with benches.
The idea of planting in themed beds means that plants are set out either in families or in groups according to environmental adaptation in the wild. For example, one bed contains specimens from the Laminacea family which include Salvias, Lavender and Nepeta. Another bed features bee friendly plants such as Campanula and Phlox. Under the shade of mature trees, a further area contains shade-loving plants such as ferns, anemones and lilies.
THE HIVE INSTALLATION
An unexpected bonus was the newly installed Hive. An actual work of art by Wolfgang Buttress, the Hive is a lattice of aluminium pieces and is fitted with hundreds of LED lights which glow and fade in synch with the real-time activity of bees in a beehive behind the scenes at Kew.
If you haven’t been to Kew recently, it is certainly worth a visit this summer. The Hive installation is a temporary piece, in place until November 2017.