Having moved to London a month ago, it was high time that I managed to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens (or Kew Gardens as it is more commonly called).
It was a misty autumn morning and not only was I curious to see the rich collection of plants and discover the photo opportunities, of which I was sure there would be plenty. I was also interested in learning more about the scientific research implemented at Kew, especially after having read that the gardens had an explicit mission:
“Kew’s mission is to be the global resource for plant and fungal knowledge, building an understanding of the world’s plants and fungi upon which all our lives depend.”
Kew gardens employ approximately 250 scientists in addition to hosting 40 PhD students and 88 honorary research fellows and associates. It is home to important scientific collections such as the DNA Bank (containing over 50,000 samples of plant DNA) and the Kew Herbarium (holding seven million specimens!). Whilst these are only open to the researchers, most other facilities can be freely visited by the public.
Important attractions, for example, are the living laboratories – the glasshouses. Each glasshouse has a different, artificially maintained climate in order to host plants from around the world. My favourite one was the old Victorian Palm House with its tropical climate (even though it took quite a while until my lens stopped steaming up). Here the interaction and behaviour of tropical plants can be studied from the ground but also from above thanks to an elevated walkway.
Another walkway “high up” is the Treetop Walkway above the Arboretum. Whilst it gave me a different perspective to marvel at the autumn colours, I particularly liked looking at the gnarled forms of the branches and trunks which were more visible now that the trees had started shedding their leaves.
A nice surprise was that the exhibition for the Bird Photographer of the Year was held in the Rhizotron, an underground lab dedicated to the studies of soil at the Arboretum. The exhibition is open until the 29th of January 2017 and I can only recommend going and having a look.
All over, one day wasn’t nearly enough to discover the garden and I’ll surely be back soon to go more in depth into the science behind the gardens.
http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/people-data/science-directory/people (accessed 02.11.2016)
http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/explore/attractions/inside-palm-house-tropical-wonderland (accessed 02.11.2016)
http://www.timeout.com/london/attractions/kew-gardens (accessed 02.11.2016)