The pagoda at Kew Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are extensive gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond upon Thames and Kew in southwest London.
They originated in the exotic garden at Kew House formed by Lord Capel of Tewkesbury, enlarged and greatly extended by Princess Augusta, the widow of Frederick, Prince of Wales, for whom Sir William Chambers erected several garden structures, of which the lofty Chinese pagoda erected in 1761 remains. George III enriched the gardens, aided by the skill of William Aiton and of Sir Joseph Banks. The old Kew House was demolished in 1802. The "Dutch House" adjoining was purchased by George III in 1781 as a nursery for the royal children. It is a plain brick structure now known as Kew Palace.
In 1840 the gardens were adopted as a national botanical garden. Under Kew's new director, William Hooker, the gardens were increased to 30 ha (75 acres), and the pleasure grounds, or arboretum, extended to 109 ha (270 acres), and later to its current size of 121 ha. There are extensive conservatories, the herbarium, and a library.
The Palm House was built by architect Decimus Burton and iron-maker Richard Turner between 1841 and 1849, and was the first large-scale structural use of wrought iron.
The Tropical House is the largest surviving Victorian greenhouse in existence.
Despite often unfavourable growing conditions (atmospheric pollution from London, dry soils and low rainfall) it remains one of the most comprehensive plant collections in Britain. In an attempt to expand the collections away from these unfavourable conditions, Kew has established two out-stations, at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, and (jointly with the Forestry Commission) Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent, the latter specialising in growing conifers.
Kew was the location of the successful effort in the 19th century to propagate rubber trees for cultivation outside South America.
Kew is important as a repository of seeds; it has one of the most important seedbanks. With the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Australian National Herbarium, they cooperate in the IPNI database to produce an authoritative source of information on the nomenclature of plants.
In July 2003, the gardens were put on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Members of the public are admitted to the gardens, although there is an entrance fee. The nearest combined rail and London Underground station is Kew Gardens station (District Line and Silverlink). Kew Bridge station, to the north of the gardens, is within easy walking distance.
- Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario
- Royal Botanic Gardens Kew official website (http://www.rbgkew.org.uk)
- Explore Kew Gardens free online virtual tour using 360° panoramas, movies, narration and music (http://www.explore-kew-gardens.net)
- BBC "A Year at Kew" documentary behind the scenes at Kew Gardens (http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/tv_and_radio/yearatkew_index.shtml)
- The International Plant Names Index (http://www.IPNI.org)
- Millennium Seed Bank Project (http://www.kew.org/msbp/)
- Street map (http://www.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?lat=51.4794&lon=-0.2877&scale=25000) of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, from Multimap. Kew Gardens station is in the centre; Kew Bridge station is top centre
- Aerial photo (http://www.multimap.com/map/photo.cgi?x=518375&y=176855&scale=10000) of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, from Multimap