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The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to simply as Kew Gardens, are 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouse between Richmondmarker and Kewmarker in southwest Londonmarker, Englandmarker. The director is Professor Stephen D. Hopper, who succeeded Professor Sir Peter Crane. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is also the name of the organisation that runs Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place gardens in Sussex. It is an internationally important botanical research and education institution with 700 staff and an income of £56 million for the year ended 31 March 2008, as well as a visitor attraction receiving almost 2 million visits in that year. The gardens are a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsmarker. Created in 1759, the gardens celebrated their 250th anniversary in 2009.

The Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is responsible for the world’s largest collection of living plants. The organisation employs more than 650 scientists and other staff. The living collections include more than 30,000 different kinds of plants, while the herbarium, which is the largest in the world, has over 7 million preserved plant specimens. The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. The Kew site includes four Grade I listed buildings and 36 Grade II listed structures in an internationally significant landscape.


Kew Gardens originated in the exotic garden at Kew Park formed by Lord Capel of Tewkesburymarker. It was enlarged and extended by Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, the widow of Frederick, Prince of Wales, for whom Sir William Chambers built several garden structures. One of these, the lofty Chinese pagoda built in 1761 still remains. George III enriched the gardens, aided by William Aiton and Sir Joseph Banks. The old Kew Park (by then renamed the White 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 Palacemarker.

The collections grew somewhat haphazardly until the appointment of the first collector, Francis Masson, in 1771. In 1840 the gardens were adopted as a national botanical garden. Under Kew's director, William Hooker, the gardens were increased to 30 hectares (75 acres) and the pleasure grounds, or arboretum, extended to 109 hectares (270 acres), and later to its present size of 120 hectares (300 acres).

The Palm House was built by architect Decimus Burton and iron-maker Richard Turner between 1844 and 1848, and was the first large-scale structural use of wrought iron. The structure's panes of glass are all hand-blown. The Temperate house, which is twice as large as the Palm House, followed later in the 19th century. It is now the largest Victorian glasshouse in existence.

Kew was the location of the successful effort in the 19th century to propagate rubber trees for cultivation outside South America. In February 1913 the Tea House was burnt down by Suffragettes Olive Wharry and Lilian Lenton during a series of arson attacks in Londonmarker.

In October 1987 Kew Gardens lost hundreds of trees in the Great Storm of 1987marker.

In July 2003, the gardens were put on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCOmarker.

Professional activities


The Kew herbarium is one of the largest in the world with approximately 7 million specimens used primarily for taxonomic study. The herbarium is rich in types for all regions of the world, especially the tropics.

The Harvard University Herbaria and the Australian National Herbarium co-operate with Kew in the IPNI database to produce an authoritative source of information on botanical nomenclature.


Kew is important as a seedbank. It co-sponsors the Millennium Seed Bank Project inside the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building at Wakehurst Place in Sussex.

Despite unfavourable growing conditions (atmospheric pollution from Londonmarker, dry soils and low rainfall) Kew 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 Placemarker in Sussex, a National Trust property, and (jointly with the Forestry Commission) Bedgebury Pinetummarker in Kentmarker, the latter specialising in growing conifers.

Library and archives

The library and archives at Kew are one of the world's largest botanical collections, with over half a million items, including books, botanical illustrations, photographs, letters and manuscripts, periodicals, and maps. The Jodrell Library was recently merged with the Economic Botany and Mycology Libraries and all are now housed in the Jodrell Laboratory.

Forensic horticulture

Kew provides advice and guidance to police forces around the world where plant material may provide important clues or evidence in cases.


Alpine house:
The Davies Alpine House

In March 2006 the Davies Alpine House opened, the third version of an alpine house since 1887. The new house features a set of automatically operated blinds that prevent it overheating when the sun is too hot for the plants together with a system that blows a continuous stream of cool air over the plants.

To conserve energy the cooling air is not refrigerated but is cooled by being passed through a labyrinth of pipes buried under the house at a depth where the temperature remains suitable all year round.

The Japanese Gateway (Chokushi-Mon)
for the Japan-British Exhibition and moved to Kew in 1911, the Chokushi-Mon is a four-fifths scale replica of the karamon (gateway) of the Nishi Hongan-jimarker temple in Kyoto. It lies c. 140m west of the Pagoda, surrounded by a reconstruction of a traditional Japanese garden.

Compost heap:
Kew has the largest compost heap in the world, made from green waste from the gardens and the waste from the stables of the Household Cavalry. The compost is mainly used in the gardens but on occasion has been auctioned as part of a fund raising event for the gardens.

The compost heap is in an area of the gardens not accessible to the general public but a viewing platform has been erected to allow visitors to observe the heap as it goes through its cycle.

Guided walks:

Free tours of the gardens are conducted by trained volunteers and leave from Victoria Gate at 11am and 2pm every day (except Christmas Day).

International Garden Photographer of the Year Exhibition:

This competition is now an annual event with an outdoor display of entries during the summer months.

Kew Palace:

Kew Palace is the smallest of the British royal palaces. It was built by Samuel Fortrey, a Dutch merchant in around 1631. It was later purchased by George III. The construction method is known as Flemish bond and involves laying the bricks with long and short sides alternating. This and the gabled front tend to give the construction a definite Dutch appearance.

To the rear of the building is the "Queen's Garden" which includes a collection of plants believed to have medicinal qualities. Only plants that were extant in England by the seventeenth century are grown in the garden.

The building underwent significant restoration before being opened to the public in 2006.

It is administered separately from the gardens and is the only permanently open attraction within the grounds that requires an additional fee to view.

Minka house:

Following the Japanmarker 2001 festival, Kew acquired a Japanese wooden house called a minka. It was originally erected in around 1900 in a suburb of Okazaki. Japanese craftsmen reassembled the framework and British builders who had worked on the Globe Theatremarker added the mud wall panels.

Work on the house started on the seventh of May 2001 and when the framework was completed on the twenty first of May in the same year a Japanese ceremony was held to mark what was considered an auspicious occasion. Work on the building of the house was completed in November 2001 but the internal artifacts were not all in place until 2006.

The Minka house is located within the bamboo collection in the West central part of the gardens.

Marianne North Gallery:
The Marianne North Gallery of Botanic Art

The Marianne North Gallery was built in the 1880s to house the paintings of Marianne North, an MP's daughter who travelled alone to North and South America, South Africa and many parts of Asia to paint plants in a time when women rarely did so. The gallery has 832 of her paintings. The paintings were left to Kew by the artist and a condition of the bequest is that the layout of the paintings in the gallery may not be altered.

The Marianne North Gallery reopened in October 2009 after refurbishment and restoration of paintings.

Museum No.

Near the Palm House is a building known as "Museum No. 1" which was designed by Decimus Burton and opened in 1857. Its aim was to illustrate humans' dependence on plants, housing Kew's economic botany collections including tools, ornaments, clothing, food and medicines. The building was refurbished in 1998. The upper two floors are now an education centre and the ground floor houses the "Plants+People" exhibition which highlights the variety of plants and the ways that people use them.

Admission to the galleries and museums is free after paying admission to the Gardens.

The Nash Conservatory:
The Nash Conservatory

Originally designed for Buckingham Palace, this was moved to Kew in 1836 by King William IV. It currently houses an exhibition related to rainforests.

The Orangery:
Kew Orangery

The Orangery was designed by Sir William Chambers, and was completed in 1761. It measures 28m x 10m. After many changes of use, it is currently used as a cafe.


In the South East corner of Kew Gardens stands the Great Pagoda (by Sir William Chambers), erected in the year 1762, from a design in imitation of the Chinese Ta. The lowest of the ten octagonal storeys is 49 feet (15 m) in diameter. From the base to the highest point is 163 feet (50 m).

Each storey finishes with a projecting roof, after the Chinese manner, originally covered with ceramic tiles and adorned with large dragons; a story is still propagated that they were made of gold and were reputedly sold by George IV to settle his debts. The truth is that the dragons were made of wood painted gold, and simply rotted away with the ravages of time. The walls of the building are composed of brick. The staircase, 253 steps, is in the centre of the building. The Pagoda was closed to the public for many years, but reopened for the summer months in 2006. Renovation is under way for permanent opening to the public to celebrate Kew's 250th birthday in 2009.

During the Second World War a hole in each floor was cut so there was a hole running down the inside from top to bottom. Model bombs were then dropped to test the way that they fell.[4368]

Princess of Wales conservatory:

The year 1987 saw the opening of Kew's third major conservatory, the Princess of Wales Conservatory (opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in commemoration of her predecessor Augusta's associations with Kew), which houses ten computer-controlled micro-climatic zones, with the bulk of the greenhouse volume composed of Dry Tropics and Wet Tropics plants.

Queen Charlotte's Cottage:

Within the conservation area is a cottage that was given to Queen Charlotte as a wedding present on her marriage to George III. It has been restored by Historic Royal Palaces and is separately administered by them.

It is open to the public on the May Day and August bank holidays and at weekends during July and August.


The Rhizotron

A rhizotron opened at the same time as the "treetop walkway" giving visitors the opportunity to investigate what happens beneath the ground where trees grow. The rhizotron is essentially a single gallery containing a set of large bronze abstract castings which contain LCD screens that carry repeating loops of information about the life of trees.

Sackler Crossing:
The Sackler Crossing

The Sackler Crossing bridge made of granite and bronze opened in May 2006. Designed by Buro Happold and John Pawson, it crosses the lake and is named in honour of philanthropists Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler.

The crossing won a special award from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2008.

Shirley Sherwood Gallery:
The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanic Art
Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanic Art opened in April 2008, and holds paintings from Kew's and Dr Shirley Sherwood's collections, many of which have never been displayed to the public before. It features paintings by artists such as Georg D. Ehret, the Bauer brothers, Pierre-Joseph Redouté and Walter Hood Fitch. The paintings and drawings are cycled on a six monthly basis. The gallery is linked to the Marianne North Gallery (see above).

Temperate House:
The Temperate House
This greenhouse has twice the floor area of the Palm House and is the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure. It contains plants and trees from all the temperate regions of the world.

There is a viewing gallery in the central section where visitors may look down on the collection there.

Treetop walkway:

A new treetop walkway opened on May 24, 2008. This walkway is high and long and takes visitors into the tree canopy of a woodland glade. Visitors can ascend and descend either by stairs or by the use of a lift. The floor of the walkway is made from perforated metal and flexes as it is walked upon. The entire structure sways in the wind.

The image to the left shows a section of the walkway and the steel supports that were designed to rust to a tree-like appearance to help the walkway fit in with its surroundings.

There is a short film detailing the construction of the walkway available online.

Vehicular tour:
Kew Explorer is a service that takes a circular route around the gardens, provided by two 72-seater road train that are fueled by Calor Gas to minimise pollution. A commentary is provided by the driver and there are several stops.

A map of the gardens with the stopping points listed is available at Kew Gardens Site Map

Waterlily House:
Inside the Waterlily House
The water lily house is the hottest and most humid of the houses at Kew and contains a large pond with varieties of waterlily, surrounded by a display of economically important heat-loving plants.

Plant collections at Kew

The Aquatic Garden

Celebrating its centenary in 2009 the Aquatic Garden provides conditions for aquatic and marginal plants. The large central pool holds a selection of summer-flowering waterlilies whilst the corner pools contain plants such as reed mace, bulrushes, phragmites and smaller floating aquatic species.

The Arboretum

The arboretum at Kew covers over half of the total area of the site and contains over 14,000 trees of many thousands of varieties.

The Cacti collection

This is housed in and around the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

The Carnivorous Plant collection

This is housed in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

The Grass Garden

Created on its current site in the early 1980s to display ornamental and economic grasses. It was redesigned and replanted between 1994 & 1997. It is currently undergoing a further redesign and planting. Over 580 species of grasses are displayed.

The Herbaceous Grounds (Order Beds)

The Order Beds were devised in the late 1860s by Sir Joseph Hooker, then director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, so that botany students could learn to recognise plants and experience at first hand the diversity of the plant kingdom.The collection is organised into family groups. Its name arose because plant families were known as natural orders in the nineteenth century.Over the main path is a rose pergola built in 1959 to mark the bicentennial of the Gardens. It supports climber and rambling roses selected for the length and profusion of flowering.

The Orchid collection

The orchid collection is housed in two climate zones within the Princess of Wales Conservatory. To maintain an interesting display the plants are changed regularly so that those on view are generally flowering.

The Rock Garden

Originally built of limestone in 1882 it is now constructed of Sussex sandstone from West Hoathly, Sussex.The rock garden is divided into 6 geographic regions:Europe, Mediterranean & Africa, Australia & New Zealand, Asia, North America and South America.There are currently 2,480 different 'accessions' growing in the garden.

The Rose garden

The rose garden, which is behind the palm house, is being replanted.

Other collections

Other collections and specialist areas include; the bonsai collection, the rhodedendron dell, the azalea garden, the bamboo garden, the juniper collection, the berberis dell, the lilac garden, the magnolia collection, and the fern collection.


There have been three series of "A Year at Kew" filmed in the gardens for BBC television. These have been released on DVD, including a box set of all three programmes.


Public transport

The nearest combined rail and London Underground station is Kew Gardensmarker (District Line and London Overground) to the east of the gardens. To the north, Kew Bridge railway stationmarker is about 10–15 minutes from the main entrance, with trains to Clapham Junctionmarker and Waterloomarker. There are two bus route suitable for the gardens, 65 and 391

Cycle and Car

There are cycle racks located just inside the Victoria Gate, Main Gate and Brentford Gate entrances to the park. For those arriving by car there is a 300-space car park outside Brentford Gate.[4369]


Image:Chihuly at Kew Gardens 031.jpg|Dale Chihuly glass art at the exhibition of his work in 2005Image:Henry Moore at Kew Gardens 563.JPG|Henry Moore statue at the exhibition of his work in 2007File:Titan arum Kew 6697.JPG|Titan arum in the Princess of Wales ConservatoryFile:Alpine house Kew 839-50-360PMpolar2-gimp.JPG|The Alpine House and Princess of Wales Conservatory in polar coordinatesFile:Kew Mural 10049.JPG|The Kew Mural

See also


External links

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