Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour

October 7, 2016

Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour

 

Sometimes I feel very spoilt to be living in London, it truly is a labyrinth of beauty. I am always discovering new places to visit, things that have opened, parks unexplored and areas I once knew well, altered. This is a bit of a double edged sword as with the increasing price of homes, foreign investors and the outspreading of wealth, a lot of traditional London is disappearing to be replaced by so many indistinct villages which can feel like they are cut from the same template and slightly altered for each town. Having moved out of Tooting less than a year ago, for example, I am struck each time I visit by how much this is becoming yet another village of fairly predictable middle class pursuits (I have nothing against these per se, it just makes me worry a little about where the original voices in my town may have been lost amongst all the new wealth and gentrification). This may sound a bit rich coming from someone with quite a trendy home and sharp design instincts but I love my home and have always spent every bean I have on making it my haven,  I am the true definition of a home bird. Away from my slight unease with gentrification, some things in London never change. Kew Gardens is one of them. I haven’t been for nearly 20 years (god, am I really so old that I can casually eschew decades like that? Yes!) but I still remember that visit so well. I’d been travelling in Japan with one of my best friends and back on English soil I was keen to visit the Japanese gardens there. In my haste to get to the other end of the site, I failed to go into the famous Palm House. I have seen it lit from outside during their night-time Christmas lights festival (see post here) over the last few years, so I knew it was special but last weekend we made a daytime visit to finally go inside. It was so worth it, I think this may now be one of my favourite spots in the city.

 

 

Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour leaves

Image: Design Soda

 

The palm house is like entering another world, especially on a chilly autumn morning, the warmth and humidity a seductive contrast to outdoor exploration of the rest of the gardens. In fact it was so humid that my camera lens misted up! Which actually produced a really cool shot of some palms (see second to last shot).

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Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour banana tree

Image: Design Soda

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The glass house itself is an incredible structure, built in 1848 when the Victorians were making exhibition halls of glass for the grand exhibitions. It’s utterly of its time, and perfectly preserved, one can almost smell the Victorian obsession for both botany and scientific discovery and the amassing of natural treasures from foreign lands on the grand tours of the period. This is a period when gardening and exotic plants really spiralled in popularity in the UK and its amazing to see some of the specimens in vogue at that time all collated together in one hell of a menagerie. Check out that banana tree (above) it’s incredible, just look at those leaves in all their lushness.

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Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour glass structure roof

Image: Design Soda

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Architecturally this behemoth structure in glass is incredibly impressive, it is both huge and magnificent. As I mentioned above, we have seen it lit up from the outside at Christmas and it’s a pretty awe inspiring sight (see post here). This cathedral of glass contains 16,000 panes and was considered a marvel of engineering when it was built using techniques from the shipping industry to create the wrought iron which spans gravity defiying large widths without columns.

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Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour foliage

Image: Design Soda

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Each walkway has been carefully curated to draw your attention into the next, I imagine at less busy times you could really get lost in the steamy botanical atmosphere for hours. There is so much to look at, it’s almost vertiginous in its variety, how to choose a favourite plant in such a wealth of splendour I don’t know but this small-ish specimen pictured above may just be mine.

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Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour stairs

Image: Design Soda

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There is an incredible section in the middle accessed via these stairs (pictured above) where you can stand on a balcony level which wraps around all four sides of the central dome and look down on the conservatory jungle below. The view is amazing and I am a little in love with all the intricate white ironwork against the verdant green of the plants. 

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Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour palm trees

Image: Design Soda

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The steamy palms that created a dew on my camera lens, look at the mist on the glass panes, such a magical, tropical atmosphere, walking back out into the cold freshness of an October morning outside can only be likened to emerging from the dark of the cinema on a summers day, full of disorientation and other worldliness.

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Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour palms

Image: Design Soda

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If these pictures have persuaded you at all, do visit, it really is worth it, such a special place. In fact there’s a blogger event I’ve been invited to at Kew this weekend as a part of the Handmade at Kew which (which looks amazing) if I had time I’d be sorely tempted to go. If not, I will definitely be dropping back again soon, if you bump into me do say hi, I will be the one stuck in a reverie by the banana trees I imagine. Details of visiting Kew can be found here.

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3 thoughts on “Palm House Kew Gardens, picture tour

    1. Design_Soda_Ruthie Post author

      Yes definitely! So nice to find something genuinely wonderful and new to me in London, I’m not sure my teenage self would have appreciated it 20 years ago but it’s so incredible. Makes me want to grow lots of exotic plants now which I have more ambition than skill for!

      Reply
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