Thursday, 17 May 2007

A right royal garden

Blue belle: One of London's finest bluebell woods is kept in its natural state by edict of Queen Victoria, no less

Bluebell season came early at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew this year. May is usually the time for this delicate blue flower but April's unseasonable (thought welcome) sun coaxed the flowers into premature bloom. An email to Kew a couple of weeks ago revealed that the bluebells were at their peak, so with camera in hand and family in tow, I set off to west London.

Kew isn't the easiest place in London to get to. Stuck out near the end of the Richmond branch of the District line, for anyone who doesn't hail from the west it's a bit of a trek. I collected my parents, who came with me on this trip, from Liverpool Street station and we settled in for the 45 minute journey. But a visit to Kew really is worth the effort. At more than 300 acres filled with rare and domestic plants and trees, birds and animals, there is plenty to see. It's the ideal place for a leisurely picnic and on that weekend I visited several people were making the most of the warm April weather, spreading blankets on the ground and relaxing with food and wine.

Rhods around Britain: The rhododendron dell in bloom

The gardens started life as the exotic gardens of Kew Park. They were then enlarged by Princess Augusta, princess of Wales and widow of Prince Frederick, the prince of wales, in the mid to late 18th century. Her eldest son, King George III, further enriched the gardens and his family spent a lot of time at Kew. It was in 1840 that the gardens were adopted as a national botanical garden.

Architect Decimus Burton and iron-maker Richard Turner built the Palm House in 1844-1848. It was the first large-scale structural use of wrought iron. The Temperate House followed later in the 19th century. Twice as bit as the Palm House, the Temperate House is the largest Victorian greenhouse in existence. Kew's third major glasshouse, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, was opened in 1987 by Diana, princess of Wales, in commemoration of her predecessor Augusta.

I predict: A riot of colour in the azalea garden

Spring to early summer really is the best time to visit Kew, but all those conservatories guarentee that there is plenty to see all year round. April's weather had conspired to bring about the flowering of not only the bluebells, but also some stunning rhododendrons and azaleas. The colours were quite spectacular and really the only thing I can do now is leave you to enjoy these photos.

The eyes have it: This peacock was determined to show off his best side - he made Kate Moss look camera shy

No comments: