Kew Gardens is just a 40 min tube ride away from central London and transports you into a completely different environment. No skyscrapers in site, the vast stretch of land provides a playground to explore for hours. At the moment, Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures are scattered throughout the gardens and draws everyone to take pictures with the massive installations. While initially the garden’s map may seem intimidating, the green houses, towers, and ponds are scattered in a manner that allows you to aimlessly walk and run into an attraction every five minutes.
The green houses section off plants by the environmental conditions they thrive in. For example, the “Palm House” included banana trees, Brazilian palm trees and various plants found in South America. As soon as I walked in, a student from a visiting elementary school complained that he “couldn’t breath” and people let out sighs of relief as they walked back out into the cooler air. As we climbed the spiral staircase to get a breathtaking view of the tree tops, we were drenched in sweat and moisture from the sprinklers. Next time, I will definitely not be wearing jeans.
A short walk away, the “Princess of Wales Conservatory” has a selection of cacti, (which the visitors from Arizona gushed over), carnivorous plants, and over-sized lily pads from Bolivia. Outside, plants from New Zealand and Australia line the walk to Kew Palace. Here, workers dressed to imitate those that would have served King George III. As we walked through the house we were able to view the goods and textiles that were imported from far away countries, and were displayed to show the family’s power and wealth. One of the employees even gave us a brief history lesson on King George III and Queen Charlotte’s family. We then learned that Queen Charlotte was German and that their children went on to rule other lands. At the end of the quick summary, the man went around and asked those that were in the room where they were traveling from. One woman from the Virgin Islands, a couple from West London, a couple from Germany, and a family from Australia came together to make this diverse group of spectators.
People spoke in French, Korean, and Russian as they had picnics in the fields near the “Temperate House”. This house was much more tolerable in temperature and included many Colombian plants, making my Colombian friend very happy. The mix of Donatello’s “David”, Chihuly’s modern sculptures, and tropical plants were just as diverse as the house’s visitors. However, we were all united in enjoying the wonderfully filled house, gaping at the same hibiscus, and dancing around the hanging vines.
After a walk above the trees at the “Treetop Walkway”, and walking over “Sackler Crossing”, we made our way over to the bamboo garden and “Minka house”. Being half Japanese, I realized the garden keeper’s close attention to detail and accuracy. I was able to recognize the surrounding trees and shrubs as the ones I see when I visit my Grandmother in Japan, and was extremely happy with the way they created the environment. Inside the “Minka house” I was even able to listen in on a couple of Japanese women discussing the house’s construction, and the detail on the Japanese artifacts.
The Kew Gardens was almost like a zoo for plants. It allowed people to view and appreciate plants from all around the world, which they would have never otherwise been able to see. The garden’s plant and visitor diversity perfectly represented London’s diversity, and was an incredible environment to be in. The visitor’s different comments and observations made me appreciate my surroundings even more, and made my visit well worth the trip.