Monday 2 April 2018

Kew Gardens in March: The Palm House

On my March visit to Kew I took a spring stroll round the gardens, was dazzled by the annual Orchids Festival, then decided it was time to take a look inside the famous Palm House.

The massive Victorian Palm House was built in the 1840s, creating a rainforest-like environment to house the palms and other tropical plants brought back by Kew's botanists from their travels. The oldest potted plant in the glasshouse was actually brought to England in the 1700s!


The curves of the glass and iron building are pretty iconic - that's a word that's overused these days, but I think it applies in this case. When it was built, this was the biggest glasshouse in the world and the architects had to borrow techniques from the shipbuilding industry to make it work.


The Palm House is essentially two attractions in one: the building with its sweeping curves and decorative details, and the plants themselves. The two combine to make somewhere unique and really rather magical. 


Stepping through the doorway from a brisk English Spring day into this tropical wonderland is quite an experience. While the displays of orchids are a riot of colour, the Palm House is a tapestry of green: different shapes and shades and textures mingling together in a lush collage. (I'm mixing my metaphors a bit there but never mind). 

You could spend a whole day in here with a sketchbook and a camera and not get bored! There's so much to see - including birds flitting here and there, and hopping through the undergrowth. I was thrilled to see a wren (one of my very favourite birds) and stood quietly watching it for as long as I could before it vanished into the leafy depths. 

And as if all that loveliness wasn't enough, you can also climb the spiral staircase to the viewing platform for views down onto the greenery and an uninterrupted view of that incredible roof.

Click here to see a short video about the Palm House, and click here to read the rest of my blog posts about Kew.