250 Congratulations to Kew Gardens

Wildflower planting outside Kew Gardens

Wildflower planting outside Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens are 250 years old this year and far more beautiful and interesting than at the time of my first visit. But if the quality is twice as good as it was, it  still less than half as good as it could be. I was therefore delighted to learn that an excellent landscape architecture firm (Gross Max, of Edinburgh) has been appointed to advise on the development of Kew Gardens.

The change which has made the greatest difference, so far, is the adoption of a ‘sustainable Kew’ policy. You see this in the wildflower meadow outside the main gate (photo above, taken today) and you see it in the long grass under the trees covering perhaps 50% of the garden area.  The other big changes are the restoration of old features (eg the garden of Kew Palace) and the creation of new features, including the Sackler Crossing and the Tree Walk.

The two missing elements, which Gross Max may be able to provide, are a connection with the River Thames and an overall sense of spatial composition. The latter problem is difficult, because so much of the tree and shrub planting is ‘spotty’ and the new features are being dotted about like rides in a theme park. But the problems are not insuperable and I much look forward to seeing them resolved.

One other point: the increase in quality has has been accompanied by a rise in the entry price from one penny to thirteen pounds sterling. There being 240 old pennies in an old pound, this equates (see comment below) to an increase of  three thousand one hundred and twenty percent. Kew will be a very great garden when the visual quality has risen proportionately!

4 thoughts on “250 Congratulations to Kew Gardens

  1. Christine

    Somebody at the University of Edinburgh in the landscape section really loves plants! [http://www.estates.ed.ac.uk/works/landscape/Photo%20Galleries/Plants08/plantgall.html]

  2. Jeremy

    I wonder whether Kew can ever be made cohesive in the way you suggest. But more to the point, I’m old enough to remember visiting when the price was still one penny, but the currency had already changed, and the Gate Porter had to lend people on old penny to put in the turnstile. So, to correct your maths just a bit, the price has gone up not 1300% but 3120% — there were 240 pennies to a pound, back then.

  3. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you! I thought of that at lunch time today and will make the correction. I think I must be older than you, because I remember having pennies in my pocket to put in the old machines.

    On the other point, I think it can be done and will be done if they take Gross Max’s advice. The problem is that the gardens have always been run by horticulturalists/scientists and they have not known what spatial design is, let alone how to do it. But to their credit the present management have recognized that ‘something must be done’. I did not put Kew on my list of the world’s top ten gardens but I think it conceivable that they could get there. http://www.gardenvisit.com/blog/2009/03/04/the-worlds-top-ten-gardens/


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