Visit Kew Gardens by Mouse
Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (Web site), shortened to Kew Gardens, is on the south bank of the Thames about 6 miles southwest of London. It is therefore easily visited as a day trip by public transportation or car. The Kew Gardens web site provides directions. Compared to American standards, admission is pricey, over 12 British Pounds, or almost $25 per adult.
It is a huge installation, covering about 300 acres and employing 700 people. It has inside and outside display areas for public viewing, but its main function is the conduct of botanical research, and as a seed bank. It is well-kept, and has many different types of exotic plants to see. We spent an enjoyable and interesting good half-day there, and we did not come close to seeing it all. One highlight for us was the huge greenhouse you see on our photos page, The Palm House, a wonderously constructed glass building, which is full of strange and beautiful plants and flowers.
However, our visit to Kew was not, all in all, an exceptional experience. Perhaps because it was so huge and spread out. Perhaps because of the time of year. But we have been to other botanical gardens, much smaller, and more specialized, but with more artful displays as a result. The orchids display were very nice, but Selby Gardens in Sarasota,Florida, has a much larger display with many more exotic species. And, so far, we have not come across any garden display more beautiful than those in the Butchard Gardens on Victoria Island, B.C. Keukenhof, in the Netherlands, so specialized that it is open only for a couple of months in the Spring, and concentrates on just one plant, the tulip, was a much more enjoyable visit. We don't like to invoke invidious comparisons. Kew Gardens is, after all, much more than a place for visitors to see plants and flowers. But we thought it responsible to share our views with other visitors who may enjoy viewing plants and flowers and learning just a little about them.
This is what we wrote about our visit in 2003: "We didnít stay too long. While the park is huge and probably lovely in spring and summer, it is already autumn and itís been a very dry summer in England. There wasnít much in bloom and it was getting pretty brown all over. There were three big greenhouses, though, including all kinds of plants from different areas of the world.

Our judgement on it was that it may have been spectacular once, when plantings such as this were rare and no one had the chance to see many of those things before. But there are now botanical gardens all over Ė and we do after all live part of the time in a tropical climate. It wasnít that interesting to us. And, frankly, the orchid display didnít come close to the Marie Selby Gardens in Florida, the outside was not as lovely as the Buchard Gardens in Victoria, Vancouver, and the formal gardens didnít come close to Kuekenhoff (which is spelled wrong, I know). Howís that for a jaded assessment?"

You can see our photos and some elsewhere on the internet. Even better, you can take an extensive virtual tour of Kew Gardens.
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