This weekend we made the most of the dry weather on Saturday and took a trip to the world famous Kew Gardens in London. We’re fairly regular visitors to their lovely Wakehurst Place site, but there’s something really special about visiting the main garden in London.
We took the boys for the first time last year and they have often asked to return, so when we realised we had two free adult tickets (as a result of Friends of Wakehurst Place and Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum memberships) AND it was the last weekend of the Festival of Orchids we couldn’t have picked a better time for a Spring visit.
We visited the Tropical house first as it is just spectacular and is such an excellent educational resource. Many of the world’s most important economic crops are found there, with great information boards detailing each one. The kids were amazed to see Bananas growing in tiny bunches, Pineapples emerging from small shrubby bromeliads, and Vanilla twisting its way through the tree trunks among other unfamiliar plants that were actually familiar foods. Toby was impressed by the Cycads that have remained little changed from their ancestors who would have provided food for dinosaurs. The basement aquarium is always a surprise gem tucked away beneath the towering palms, and listening to a robin singing his heart out while sat among the thorns of a Rattan Palm was beautiful and surreal.
There’s too much to write about in one post, so I’ll save waxing lyrical about Spring flowers for another day and move swiftly on to the Festival of Orchids. I was expecting a selection of specimen plants in pots, but the display turned out to be breath-taking in scale and inventiveness, with sculptures made from growing plants, soaring towers of orchids and bromeliads, and orchids suspended on wires above our heads as if flying in some magical cloud garden. The flag of India picked out in flowers and leaves was very cleverly done and complemented the silk-wrapped pillars and themed music playing gently in the background.
One of the kids favourite things was the moss man riding a Tuk Tuk with orchids for passengers. The boys love gardens, but I think even kids who don’t normally appreciate the charms of a glass house would be interested in the variety and scale of the displays at Kew.
Toby has put in a request that we go and live at Kew Gardens and while that isn’t quite possible I’m certainly hoping we can make regular enough visits to keep us all happy.
NB Guide to cost of tickets and travel directions here.
The gardens have good accessibility for pushchairs and wheelchairs in most areas. There are toilets, including accessible toilets and baby changing facilities. There are cafes, but these are pricey (£3 for a cup of apple juice for example, so we take a packed lunch). There are plenty of benches around the gardens for resting younger or older legs, and wheelchairs are available to borrow if required. There is also an indoor play zone for up to 8 year olds, and an outdoor adventure play area. There are some ponds and a land train driving around which require vigilance if you have small children, but the site seemed pretty safe on the whole.