The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually called simply Kew Gardens, are extensive gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond upon Thames and Kew in southwest London, England. Kew Gardens became a World Heritage Site in 2003. This historic landscape garden illustrates significant periods of the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The landscape gardens were created by celebrated gardeners lik Charles Bridgeman, William Kent, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and William Chambers. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant contribution to the study of plant diversity and economic botany.
The mission of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is: "To enable better management of the Earth's environment by increasing knowledge and understanding of the plant and fungal kingdoms - the basis of life on earth. "
They set out to achieve their mission by
Kew Gardens originated in the exotic garden started by Lord Capel of Tewkesbury, and then enlarged by Princess Augusta, the widow of Frederick, Prince of Wales. Sir William Chambers built for her several garden structures, of which the Chinese pagoda from 1761 remains. George III added to the gardens, helped by t William Aiton and of Sir Joseph Banks. The "Dutch House" was purchased by George III in 1781 as a nursery for the royal children. It is a plain brick structure now known as Kew Palace.The old Kew Park was demolished in 1802.
In 1840 the gardens were adopted as a national botanical garden. Under Kew's then director, William Hooker, the gardens were increased to 75 acres, and the pleasure grounds, or arboretum, extended to 270 acres, and later to its present size of 300 acres.
The Palm House was built by architect Decimus Burton and iron-maker Richard Turner between 1844 and 1848. The Temperate house, which is twice as big as thee Palm House, was built later in the 19th century. Kew was the location of the successful effort in the 19th century to propagate rubber trees for cultivation outside South America.
1987 the Princess of Wales Conservatory was opened by Princess Diana in commemoration of her predecessor Augusta's associations with Kew. It houses 10 different climate zones.
Kew is important as a repository of seeds; it has one of the most important seedbanks. With the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Australian National Herbarium, they co-operate in the IPNI database to produce an authoritative source of information on the nomenclature of plants. In an attempt to expand the collections away from unfavourable growing conditions in London, Kew has established two out-stations, at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, and Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent.
The Temperate House. This greenhouse has twice the floor area
of the Palm House and is the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure
Pagoda. The Great Pagoda designed by William Chambers in 1762. The lowest of the ten octagonal storeys is 49 feet in diameter. The Pagoda is 163 feet high. Based on the Chinese pagoda designs, it was originally covered with ceramic tiles which are believed to have been sold by George IV to settle his debts. The staircase, with its 253 steps, is in the centre of the building.
Palm House was designed by Decimus Burton and opened in 1857, was built to illustrate mankind's dependence on plants. The building was refurbished in 1998. The upper two floors are now an education centre.
The Marianne North Gallery was built in the 1880s to house the paintings of Marianne North, an MP's daughter who travelled to North and South America and many parts of Asia to paint plants. It contains 832 paintings.
Kew Gardens Official Site
BBC A Year at Kew Gardens
World Heritage Sites in Britain