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What's new at Kew?

Kew Gardens' largest ever restoration project comes to its five-year conclusion this month

Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:14 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 12:07 BST
Kew Temperate House

Kew Temperate House, Kew Gardens, London

Photograph by Kew Gardens

Kew's heart of glass has been under wraps for five years. Tent structures large enough to cover three Boeing 747s, and enough scaffolding to run the length of the M25 were employed to carry out the intricate all-weather work to breathe new life into the vast Victorian greenhouse centrepiece of London's Royal Botanic Gardens.

During the restoration, over 500 plants were taken out of Temperate House, installed in a temporary nursery behind the scenes at Kew's sprawling Thames-side gardens. The mammoth job of replanting started in September last year and will continue up to the last-minute on 5 May when the greenhouse opens again, now home to some 10,000 of the rarest plants from temperate regions in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands.

What's happened in numbers?

69,000 individual elements removed from the Temperate House to be cleaned, repaired or replaced

15,000 panes of glass replaced 

1,731 days to complete the restoration

£15m funding from the National Lottery 

Like this? Then, how about these…
It's become the done thing for botanical gardens to augment their natural beauty with monumental works of architecture, sculpture and art, so check out these exhibitions across the pond:

Seattle — Chihuly Gardens and Glass
Dale Chihuly's garden home in Seattle is a great place to see this esteemed glass sculptor's work, which has graced gardens around the world.

New York — Georgia O'keeffe: Visions of Hawai'i
An exhibition of the American artist's little-known depictions of the Hawaiian Islands. 19 May — 28 October. 

Montreal — Francis Hallé: A Botanist's Journal
Follow an art trail uncovering the world wanderings and botanical drawings of botanist Francis Hallé. 24 June — 20 October. 

Buy it now

Can't make it to Kew? You can learn about some of its most treasured flora in a new book by Kew's 'plant hunter' — The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World's Rarest Species by Carlos Magdalena. RRP: £16.99 (Viking Press)

Follow @travelbarrell

Published in the May 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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