The area where Kew Gardens was established began as royal residences around 1299, but the origins of the gardens began in the mid 1700s. The Dutch House, now known as Kew Palace, was purchased by King George III in 1781 for his children. The gardens became national botanical gardens in 1840 and the Victorians enjoyed it as a retreat, enjoying the wide variety of plants gathered from across the world.
Nowadays, the gardens have a staff of around 600, primarily researchers and scientists. It is an global resource for plant and fungi knowledge, and the gardens house over 30,000 different types of living plants.
Since the students on this program are in science fields (pre-med, forensics, etc.) our guided tour related to plants with medicinal uses. Even with 1.5 hours with our guide, we had only seen a small part of the some 300 acres, so we gave the students lots of free time to explore on their own. I spent a good 4 hours there and could have easily spent more. There is so much variety and the weather was so lovely that I wanted to just lie down in the grass the entire afternoon.
|thought these roots were interesting and looked like insect legs|
|Vanilla pods. They come from an orchid and have to be hand pollinated, which is why true vanilla is so expensive.|
|This area used to be King George III's vegetable gardens|
|Stairs to the tree top walkway|
|Walking in the tree tops|
|Kew Palace where the children of King George III were educated and often lived|
|Example of an 18th century Queen bedroom|
|Toilets were added in the early 1800s. This one dates to about 1810 and still had to be emptied by servants.|
|Love the look of this little cafe outside Kew Gardens Station|
As if I didn't have enough flowers after the gardens, I ended up in the city at Victoria Station for a walk around the Belgravia area for the first day of Belgravia in Bloom, which takes place May 22-27, and corresponds with the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. Basically, a bunch of homes and businesses in this neighborhood have decorated their store fronts and windows with floral displays inspired by children's books and the public can walk around and vote for their favorite. There are also a few pop-up exhibits around the area.
|With all this walking, I couldn't help but purchase a cupcake - chocolate salted caramel with salted caramel filling. Heaven!|
|One of the pop-up exhibitions, in Belgrave Square|
|Hansel and Gretel|
|Rapunzel - at a hairdressers. Clever!|
|Rococo Chocolates featured James and the Giant Peach|
|And created a line of Roald Dahl inspired chocolates|
|The Wizard of Oz|