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Carlos Magdalena >


Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
on the Occasion of its
250th Anniversary

Photos by Carlos Magdalena
Click to enlarge

Celebrating its 250th year in 2009, RBG Kew was founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta, mother of King George III. In 1802 George III united the royal estates of Kew, Richmond, and property along the river Thames into the beginnings of the Gardens we know today spanning 120 hectares (300 acres).

In 1840 the direction of Kew began to change significantly as it became a national botanical garden. Director William Hooker, with famed explorer and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, expanded the garden’s role from simple collection and display of specimens to principal center of scientific and economic botany for England and its colonies.

The Pagoda is the oldest of Kew’s
structures, built in 1762. It is ten
stories, nearly 50m (163’), tall.

It was during the Hooker-Banks period that two iconic glasshouses were built.

The Palm House was constructed between 1844 and 1848 by Richard Turner from designs by architect Decimus Burton, and represents the first large-scale use of wrought iron. It is the world’s most important surviving Victorian glass and iron building.  


Inside the Palm House

Palm House Terrace and Pond

Palm House Pond

The Temperate House, twice the size of the Palm House, is also a Decimus Burton design. Construction began in 1860 but the building was not completed until 1899. It was completely renovated in 1978-1980 and is the largest surviving glass structure of the Victorian era. It is pictured here from Treetop Walkway, new to Kew in 2008.


Treetop Walkway



The Waterlily House, guarded by the
Queen's Beasts on the Palm House Terrace 
The Waterlily House, with ironwork by Richard Turner, was built in 1852 and specifically designed to house the rage of the era, Victoria amazonica. When the plant was relatively unsuccessful in the House, it was converted to other uses. It was converted back to its original purpose in 1991 and is home to Victoria and waterlilies in Kew’s hottest and most humid environment. 

Inside the Waterlily House



The Princess of Wales Conservatory was constructed between 1984 and 1986 and contains ten computer-controlled climatic zones. Named for Augusta, Princess of Wales, who founded the original garden, it was opened to the public by Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1987. 

PoW Main Pool v >



PoW small pool with
miniature waterlilies

PoW moist tropic zone

Musa velutina in PoW

PoW dry tropic zone


Kew’s Alpine Houses date back to 1887. This third one, interesting and innovative in design, was opened in 2006. The adjacent Rock Garden also features alpines, bulbs and stunning water features.

 The Rock Garden


The Aquatic Garden was built in 1909.
The ponds were once heated but today
waterlilies grow in the ambient temperature. 

The Alpine House and Princess of Wales
Conservatory from the Aquatic Garden



The 2.02 hectare (5 acre) Lake is an important nature conservation area as well as a beautiful and tranquil site.


Next issue - A closer look at Kew's Waterlily Displays

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