I went down to Kew Gardens last week. Yes, again. When the sun shines I can’t think of a better place to be. For once I didn’t head straight for the Japanese Landscape. I had other fish (or flowers) to fry – bits of the garden that don’t get visited so much, some of the odd places round the edges that get overlooked because the rest of the garden is so stunning.
You know how it is. It’s all too easy with Kew to walk through the gates, see over three hundred acres of glorious garden in front of you and just plunge in. The Palm House and rose gardens seem like a natural place to start, then you find you can’t resist the long grassy walk down to the lake and the Sackler crossing, the Henry More statue, the Treetop Walk, the Chinese Pagoda, and before you know it another day at Kew is gone.
My tour is different. It starts with the waterlily house. Yes, I know it’s famous but have you ever been there? Do you even know where it is? Well, I’ll tell you. There’s a little greenhouse near the far end of the Palm House that looks like it’s where the gardeners go to pot up their begonias. That’s the waterlily house.
Inside it’s like an alien planet, with huge waterlily leaves like green table tops and flowers rising like soldiers out of the dark water.
Come out of the waterlily house and head right, towards the Princess of Wales Conservatory, but keep on going past it to the entrance to the walled garden where the order beds are. They’re called order beds because they have all the plant families in order, but that’s not why we’ve come. We’re here for the peonies and the rose pergola.
The peonies are at their best right now.
The rose pergola stretches the whole length of the order beds.
At the far end is the bonsai house, a tiny greenhouse full of tiny trees. Keep going past it and turn left and then follow the sign for the Kew Gallery. This will lead you into the Duke’s garden, a peaceful private space with more peonies in flower.
Then head for Kew Palace and duck round the back into the formal gardens planted with lavender.
Since you’re now right by the Orangery, you can finish your tour on the terrace with a cup a tea and a sense of time well spent.