Sunday, 12 September 2010

Royal gardens and sustainable style

The weather hasn’t been great this Summer, but the garden parties have carried on regardless. One of the most unique new events, still in full swing, is a super-duper 12-day festival of music, debate, food and fashion hosted by Prince Charles at Clarence House. His Garden Party to Make a Difference aims to promote sustainability and make our natural resources go further. The event is part of the Start initiative to help people across the UK take small steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

London’s royal palace gardens are all magnificent, however there’s only one that, in the words of its Director, Professor Stephen Hopper, is “a leader in plant science, conservation and plant-based solutions to global environmental challenges.” The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a World Heritage site, containing the most diverse botanical collections on earth.

I last visited Kew some decades ago on a school trip. With vague memories of the sticky Palm House, a Pagoda and aching legs, I decided a return visit was long overdue. Probably not the best idea to take my elderly father along too, but there’s a useful bus-cum-train service that travels around the whole site, which is 300 acres in total – and you can hop off and explore the many attractions at your leisure.

My favourite sights are still the glass palaces, with their marvellous crystal domes. The iconic Palm House was built in 1844-48 by Richard Turner to Decimus Burton’s designs, and is possibly the world’s most notable surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.

This is surrounded by characterful heraldic figures, sculpted from Portland Stone - replicas of the ones placed in Westminster Abbey for HM The Queen’s coronation.

To me, The Waterlily House is the most breathtakingly beautiful of all. Around 150 years ago, the giant waterlily (Victoria amazonica) was the great curiosity at Kew Gardens. The plants, grown from seed collected in Bolivia, had recently flowered for the first time in England, so a sepecially designed glasshouse was created for them by Richard Turner.

When it opened in 1852, this was the widest single span glasshouse in the world, with a pond large enough to support the lilies' 2 meter wide floating leaves. The original variety of giant waterlily can now be seen in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, where growing conditions are more favourable.

There’s so much to see at Kew Gardens …I could go on writing all day. However, I just wanted to show you a few of my favourite things. Which reminds me, if you like natural bath products made from pure botanical ingredients with health-giving properties, you’ll love the unique gift set of Our Favourite Things by Zarvis at ShopCurious.

This divinely scented, beautifully wrapped organic selection is the perfect life-enhancing gift for anyone, at any time of year. But you'll probably want to add this to your own Christmas present list.

Will you?


Jan said...

Can't believe I've not been to Kew (only past it) - must remedy.

Annie Wright said...

Kew Gardens are the jungles of London! Wonderful!! A touch of the Amazon every time!!!