by Lee Nelson
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew—a 300 acre (121 hectare) World Heritage Site on the south bank of the Thames in south-west London—feature showpiece gardens, historic Victorian and modern plant houses, collections of endangered plant species and ongoing scientific research all of which contribute to its sterling international reputation.
The map to the left shows the major features and buildings at Kew as well as the three great vistas that contribute form and focus to the overall plan of the Gardens.
Clicking the map will open a new window so that you can locate points of interest on the several Kew Gardens pages.
The importance of the Palm House is emphasized by the two vistas that fan from it—Syon Vista which stretches almost 4000 feet (1,200 m) toward the River Thames and Pagoda Vista which visually links the Palm House to the Pagoda.
Cedar Vista spans the ends of the Syon and Pagoda vistas, providing a view of the Pagoda from as far away as the lake or the River Thames.
Glasshouses at Kew Gardens— some dating from the mid 1800's—are world renowned. The Palm House, Temperate House, Princes of Whales Conservatory, Alpine House, Evolution House and Waterlily House are each uniquely designed and ideally suited to their task.
Water features at Kew Gardens include the Palm House Pond, a five acre (two hectare) lake and a waterlily pond. The River Thames flows along the western boarder of Kew Gardens.
Asain influence at Kew Gardens is reflected in the Pagoda, the Japanese Minka and the Japanese Landscape and Gate.
Royal Kew-several surviving features at Kew Gardens-Kew Palace, Queen Charlotte's Cottage, Royal Menageries and the Queen' Beasts-relate to its royal heritage.
Kew Palace was known as Dutch House when Queen Caroline leased it along withother buildings and several parcels of land after the death of King George II.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage was given to the queen in 1761 when she married George II. Near Queen Charlotte's Cottage are a few reminders—ornamental bird and animal sculptures and live kangaroos—of a Royal Menageriethat included fish, birds with colorful plumage, cattle and even tigers.
Portland stone replicas of heraldic figures from the coronation of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abby stand in front of the Palm House and are known as the Queen's Beasts.
It is worth a visit to Kew Gardens to see the many themed 'gardens within the garden' including the Rose Garden behind the Palm House, Bamboo Garden next to the Japanese Minka, Queen's Garden behind Kew Palace and the Rose Pergola near the Order Beds and Grass Garden.
Sir Joseph Hooker—son of William Hooker, Kew's first Director—is credited with providing both guidance and inspiration for the Arboretum at Kew though exotic trees had been collected from the beginning.
Heritage trees are concentrated in the north-west corner of Kew and near the Rose Garden. They include this stone pine dating from 1846 which was initially placed in a pot where it became bonsaied giving it the unusual shape it displays as a full grown specimen.
Japanese ornamental cherry trees line Cherry Walk. Holly Walk has hollies over 135 years old and islands in the lake are planted with nyssas designed to reflect their autumn colors in the water.
The Woodland Glade near the Waterlily Pond has a small forest of giant redwoods and other conifers. While much younger, and smaller, than redwoods in Yosemite National Park or along the California coast the glen is still representative of those larger environments. Conifers near the Waterlily House date to the second Pinetum at Kew planted on land donated by Queen Victoria.
There are a number of functional buildings at Kew Gardens worth visiting. Several have been adapted to different uses than they were originally designed for while others function much as they have from the time they were first built.
Decorative buildings and other structures can also be found at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Most relate to a specific era or individual.
Visitors to the gardens can ride the Kew Explorer on a 40 minute circular route or hop on and off at strategically placed stops. Tickets can be purchased at the gates and shops. The route is marked in orange on my map with stops indicated.
It's possible to arrive at Kew via riverboat, train, car, coach or bicycle. Parking is limited and public transportation is recommended.
If you haven't already, be sure to check out my additional pages about Kew Gardens with more detail about glasshouses, water features and Royal Kew.
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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2013 Lee W. Nelson