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.
For the past two years I have made a pilgrimage there to admire the displays and the colours on offer from these dainty flowers. Each year’s festival has a theme, one year it was India and another, Thailand. This year, it looks like the festival is going to take on a Colombian theme.
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.
In previous years there have been orchids dangling from above, reflecting over the large pond area, adorning pillars and ones arranged in quirky displays such as tuk-tuks. The tropical colours of the flowers brighten up a grey day and the warmth of the conservatory is a welcomed relief from those cold February days too.
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.
It’s not all just orchids even in the winter months at Kew though. I love to talk a long walk around the Gardens. There are many trees that are still in leaf, despite it being winter and lots of species that I haven’t heard before and have interesting stories to tell. 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).
I love heading into the beautiful Palm House, you get the grandeur of some of the palms that are grown here. Take the spiral staircase up and there are some fantastic vantage points to look over the plants below, many of which reach right up to the top of the building. 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.
There are other delights including the Hive, an interactive outdoor exhibition space that highlights the important work of bees and the gardens are dotted with quirky buildings, ponds and water features that all help to compliment the landscape around you. If it wasn’t for the planes that fly over, you’d easily be forgiven for thinking you were right in the countryside, not close to central London! There’s plenty of wildlife too including jays, squirrels and a few resident peacocks too. High up in the trees you can often hear the distinctive calls of the parakeets that reside here – you could easily think you have stepped into the tropics, especially when you see the flash of green dart before you.
In late spring of 2018, the Temperate House reopened after a large refurbishment project and it will be interesting to see how the various plants have grown since my last visit in the summer. Some of the world’s most threatened and rarest plants can be found here.
Now there is one bit of Kew that I am yet to conquer, and that’s the Treetop Walkway. It towers 18 metres above the gardens and I’m told that the views up there are spectacular. Unfortunately, my vertigo has meant that on my last few visits I’ve failed to make it to the top, I’ll take photos from the ground instead 😊!
If you are looking for a day out over the winter then a visit to see the Orchids Festival should be top on your agenda, I will certainly be returning again this year. And who knows, maybe 2019 will be my year for taking on the Treetop Walkway!