Cue Kew Palm House

The other day was the first time I have been to Kew Gardens in London. Like RHS Wisley, Kew has held an almost mythical status in my mind as being among the most incredible, inspirational and beautiful gardens in existence. I was not disappointed, but then I am terribly biased.

Given the season and the limited time we had (I wanted to pack sleeping bags and enough loo roll for a fortnight), there wasn’t much we saw outdoors in herbaceous borders and other plantings. Additionally, the Temperate Greenhouse was closed for restoration and so we homed in on the iconic Kew Palm House. Some of you may know that I simply can’t resist palms, although I have only one in the garden. I find palms and many other tropicals to be in a class of their own, elegant, sophisticated and far more distinguished than many perennials could aspire to be. Perhaps it’s their novelty and their promise of lush jungle, sandy sandy beaches, warm shallow waters and azure blue skies.

The Kew Palm House is a tropical paradise recreated under glass and I can’t wait to go there again, whenever that may be.

12 Comments


  1. I lived in Florida for a few years and at the time was unconvinced by palm trees. (They aren’t very good at casting shade.) I see the appeal in your photos, though — they do need to have a lush understory and not just be specimen plants in suburban lawns. I’m glad you were able to make it to Kew, Sunil — it sounds like a magical place. Hope you make it back again soon, with or without the sleeping bags!

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    1. Like Stacey, I think that palms are better together like this rather than the odd one or two around…. for me they seem out of place in Northern Europian gardens. But here, with the correct temperature, and in a large environment it must have been a joy. And you don’t mention the smell? a different one altogether I seem to remember, in that lush place.
      Glad you enjoyed it Sunil.

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      1. Hello Mrs Mac, palms on their own can look odd, but put together with mediterranean or other hardy tropicals, they can be a stunning centre piece. I don’t remember any particular smell, just hot, humid atmosphere. It was a very enjoyable afternoon!

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    2. Hi Stacy, I wouldn’t mind having a row of palms lining the front of the house here, though they wouldn’t last very long in the winter. The tiers of planting in the palm house made it look as though it was stuffed to the rafters, it was very lush and had a “jungle” feel, without the biting insects.

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  2. I love Kew, and I have tried to plan a whole day to spend there whenever I’ve been in London. Even a day, though, leaves me feeling like I’ve rushed from one thing to another without taking enough time to really enjoy. I think your strategy of focusing your visit on the Palm House was smart, and your photos are lovely.

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    1. Hi Jean, Kew is so large and contains so much that it’s simply not possible to satisfactorily get round every thing in one day, or even in several days. Add the fact that it is constantly changing with the seasons and it’s a place with endless variety and inspiration to fire the imagination!

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  3. I’ve never been to Kew but when I go back to London in 2016 I plan on visiting. I have a friend who used to work there. It looks like such an incredible place!

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    1. Hi Tammy, that’s a holiday planned well in advance! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and I hope you manage to spend more time there than I did! There is so much to see that it’s almost overwhelming.

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  4. Sunil, did you see the redesigned rose garden? It was done by Michael Marriott of DA and may just be getting off the ground. When I return home I’ll send a link to an article I wrote about the process. Growing up in Miami, I have a soft spot for palms too.

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    1. Hi Lynn, I don’t think we did. We did pass by a long brick pergola that had climbing roses all over it, but at this time of year, the roses are over and we didn’t make any particular effort to see outdoor herbaceous plants or beds. Hopefully there will be many more visits and chances to see the rest of Kew, including the new rose garden.

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  5. Kew is beautiful in all seasons. Luckily I live not far from it so have managed to visit many times over the years, but it is hard to cram everything you want to see in. I love your palm house photos!

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    1. Hello Paula, you’re lucky to live close to it and be able to visit often. I think focussing and enjoying a limited but different section each visit is the key to an enjoyable visit, otherwise there’s too much rushing around. I’m glad you like my photos.

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