We planned our trip to the orchids show at Kew Gardens months ago, me and my twitter friends, and we chose early March in the hope that the endless winter rain might have come to an end by then – which explains why we only got to the show right at the end so I can’t suggest that you go too. But our patience certainly paid off – the orchids positively glowed in in the sunshine, and as a bonus there was some early cherry blossom in bloom too. Hello spring!
Orchids first reached the UK in 1818, as packing material in a box sent from Rio de Janeiro by William Swainson. It sparked a Victorian orchid craze that saw prices peak at a dazzling £1,500 – £96,500 in today’s money.
Some of the early orchid seekers had a tough time of it – as these diary extracts show.
So far more than 26,000 orchid species have been discovered, with 100-200 new ones being found every year. There may be as many as 5000 undiscovered ones still out there.
Orchids can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Around 10% of orchid species are believed to be endangered in their native habitats.
Kew is doing its best to keep rare orchid species alive. It has the oldest living orchid collection in existence, dating back over 200 years, and holds around 5,000 species at any one time.
So do you have a chance of seeing orchids at Kew, even though the orchids exhibition has ended? Well, they have a permanent orchid display in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which is where we saw these wonderful specimens. So I suspect that even if you go after the show is officially over you’ll still see a great display – after all, they’re not going to just throw them out, are they?
If you time it right, you’ll be able to see the wonderful spring cherry blossom display too. I think you need to wait two or three weeks for the best show (I’ll be updating you on the progress of the cherry blossom over the coming weeks), but even now there is early blossom out, like this Prunus Matsumae Kursar.
Or this Prunus Cerasifera Cherry Plum.
Plus magnolia, daffodils and crocuses in abundance. Get there while the sun shines! Entry to Kew Gardens is £14.50 for an adult. Kids under 16 go free.