London can be a bit much sometimes. It’s busy and fun and full of stuff to do, but the constant rushing and the view-blocking sky-scrapers and packed tubes take their toll.
Sometimes, I’d do anything for a bit of green, a bit of quiet. And that’s what Kew Gardens offers, and then some.
Rather than a bit of green, Kew offers acres, stuffed full of nooks and crannies to retreat to, laden with rare and exotic plants and watched over by beautiful stately buildings.
The Palm House
The Palm House is a warm, steamy, glass oasis of towering palms and beautifully dilapidated Victoria wrought-iron.
You can climb up its spindly, winding staircase to walk around a balconied-ceiling, getting an unrivalled view of the bright green leaves, flat as pancakes and huge as boulders.
Take a read of some of the notice boards around that will tell you what some of these plants are used for as well as great facts and figures about them.
A small aquarium in the basement is always packed with kids, annoyingly banging on the fish tanks, but houses seahorses, which lope around the water in their hilarious sideways manner.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory
The Princess of Wales Conservatory takes you through an impressive ten climate zones, from mushrooming cacti that look good enough to touch, to rare orchids, jewel-bright.
And I highly recommend a visit to the Waterlily House, with lily pads from the Amazon the size of bean-bags. Every time I go there, I think about the Thumbelina story from my childhood. Go, and you’ll see why.
If glassy interiors aren’t your thing, the treetop walkway will give you a stunning view of Kew from the canopy. It towers 18 metres above the gardens and you might even spot a bright green parrot causing a racket in a rival tree.
Kew Palace (aka my future home) is worth seeing as well: a little gateway into the past and strewn with interesting history.
It is the smallest of all the Royal Palaces yet was originally built in 1631 for a London silk merchant named Samuel Fortrey.
George II and his wife Queen Caroline loved the building and wanted it for their 3 eldest daughters.
It became more infamous as the place George III stayed and then became incarcerated at during his bouts of supposed madness.
Colours of Nature
Of course, the wonderful thing about Kew is its ever-changing nature. Each season brings with it new colours, new plants and new trees: life blossoming on, irrelevant of cold winds or summer sunshine.
Indeed, my uncle John is a regular visitor to Kew and insists that he always sees something different with each visit.
It’s no wonder that these gardens are an UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Top tip: wear comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be surprised just how large these gardens are).
So, if you’re looking for a slice of green to contrast the grey, visit Kew.
Festival of Orchids
If you are ever looking for a pick me up in the depths of winter then I’d highly recommend a visit to Kew Gardens’ Orchids Festival.
Taking place between February and March, this festival brings the garden’s Prince of Wales Conservatory to life with colour.
The amount of work that goes into creating these festivals is incredible, you only need to take a look at Kew’s social media feeds in the lead up to it to see just how much effort goes in to getting everything just right and keeping it maintained for visitors across the entire festival.
The festival is understandably very popular and I would recommend heading to this area of the gardens first to try and avoid the most of the crowds, especially if you are looking for that perfect picture!
There are also several opportunities to get behind-the-scenes with special visits and talks by some of the Kew team on how to keep orchids although you do need to book in advance for these.