Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
I visited Kew in April 2004. The gardens are situated west of London, near Richmond. The gardens are huge and the selection of plants is amazing. While there are numerous features worthy of note, the most interesting from a "palms and exotics" point of view are the glasshouses - the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the Palm House and the Temperate House. Here's a quick overview of each:
The Princess of Wales Conservatory:
A "new" glasshouse with some interesting palms, along with other exotics....
Arid area with cacti, agaves, etc...
Dypsis decipiens (in the centre) - one of the "new" palms currently being tried in "some" British gardens....
The Palm House:
This is probably the most amazing of the glasshouses. It's a bit depressing, though, seeing so many tropical species which will never, ever grow in a British garden :-(
One of the designers of the Palm House, Richard Turner, had previously designed the Palm House in Botanic Gardens, Belfast.
The Palm House
Coconut palm (cocos nucifera)
Tropical species too many to mention....
View from the upper level....
The Palm House is kept constantly warm and very humid. On entering, a camera lens immediately steams up and takes a long time to clear. Much patience was needed to get the above photos!
The Temperate House:
By comparison with the Palm House, the Temperate house is cool and airy. In fact many of the species therein are the same ones being grown outdoors by some palm enthusiasts in the British Isles:
And here is one of the highlights of the visit - the famous "big jubaea". Planted in 1846, it had reached 17.67m (58ft) in 1985, having been moved twice - most recently in 1938, when its weight was estimated at 54 tons. Unfortunately it is now getting too big for the glasshouse, which is a listed building - so it is more likely that the jubaea will be cut down rather than the building modified to accommodate it - a terrible shame :-(
Jubaea chilensis (from the upper level!)
A smaller jubaea is supposed to have been planted some years ago to replace the big one. The last I heard it was not doing very well and I must admit that I didn't see it during my visit. However these are not the only jubaeas at Kew - see below....
Outdoor palms and exotics:
OK so these glasshouses are all very well (and, it has to be said, extremely impressive). However for me the most interesting palms and exotics are those which have been discovered to be hardy enough to grow outdoors in the British Isles. I knew that there were a few outdoor palms at Kew, but I was pleasantly surprised as there were more than I expected (I can't say if any of these get any winter protection but since many are near the glasshouses perhaps they don't need it):
Trachycarpus fortunei (surprise surprise!) - outside the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Trachycarpus wagnerianus - outside the Palm House
Chamaerops humilis - outside the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Jubaea chilensis - outside the Palm House
Phoenix dactylifera - outside the Temperate House
Cycas revoluta - outside the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Agave americana - in an open area but on a raised bed for excellent drainage
There are also tree ferns, yuccas, etc, but I can't include photos of everything :-)
Kew is open for virtually the whole year, but the times and accessible areas may be more restricted in the winter. There is a substantial entrance fee.
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