THE British fashion for understatement goes a shade too far in calling Kew a mere garden. One may as well declare Big Ben a pocket watch or Stonehenge a pile of old rubble. For the 300-acre site which sweeps the banks of the River Thames between Richmond and Kew is no ordinary garden.
It is a pioneer of botanical excellence, a plant research centre where the world’s largest collection of flowering plants flourishes in simulated climatic environments. Endangered species are lovingly tended, propagated and redistributed in natural habitats. Six million preserved plants are meticulously stored, indexed and studied for
potential advantage to the human race.
Over the centuries, Kew has founded the rubber industries of Malaysia and Sri Lanka with plants imported from Brazil, brought relief to India with quinine from Peru, and underpinned the workforce of a nation with its innovative research into the beneficial by-products of the plants that it so diligently conserves.
Kew’s royal connection began when the Normans invaded what was then little more than a flood meadow wasteland of sand and gravel. By Tudor times many courtiers, including Elizabeth I’s beloved Earl of Leicester, had made it their home. The rolling countryside, conveniently situated close to London and the reigning monarch, soon spawned a host of magnificent houses built on the proceeds of England’s new-found mercantile prosperity.
In the 18th century King George II and Queen Caroline settled happily at Richmond Lodge next to the river, while their estranged son, Frederick, leased the neighbouring White House, a Palladian mansion converted by William Kent, which stood on a generous plot flanking the southern boundary of the present gardens and stretching as far as Kew Green.
Frederick’s friendship with John Stuart, Earl of Bute, a keen botanist living on Kew Green, inspired him to beautify the grounds of the Kew estate. Rapidly expanding trade routes enabled the Prince of Wales to import exotic plants from abroad and he and the earl designed a 300-foot greenhouse to accommodate their tropical treasures, more here.
Both plants and excitement grew, and when Frederick died of a common chill in 1751 his wife Augusta continued her husband’s passion for the garden’s development. If you are interesting in plants from whole of the world you can check compare annecy hotels website to see beautiful gardens and hotels in France.
On Bute’s advice, she employed William Aiton from the Chelsea Physic Gardens to improve the grounds, and in 1759 the botanical garden was founded on nine acres of the site.
Sir William Chambers, designer of Somerset House, filled the garden with Classical and. Gothic follies and temples, an orangery and a ruined arch. The fashion for Chinoiserie which gripped our zealously wayfaring nation was further enhanced by Chambers’ own visit to China as a young man, prompting his most ambitious project yet, planned as a surprise for Augusta.
The neighbours, however, were not so surprised, and the construction of Europe’s first pagoda saw Horace Walpole reaching for his pen. More from Europe and its beauty at Europe Cities website.”We begin to perceive the tower at Kew from Mont-pelier Row,” he wrote. “In a fortnight you will see it from Yorkshire.”