Allergic to flowers? trees? grass? Doesn’t matter, take an anti-histamine and visit Kew anyway. I can’t remember what got me interested in Kew Gardens. The first time I visited London, I asked my friends if we could go and frankly, I don’t think any of us were that impressed. It had been a dry summer and the lawn just inside the gates was nothing to write home about. However, the glasshouses (greenhouses) blew me away and still do to this day. I don’t think I’d really seen a glasshouse before then. I loved the wrought-iron spiral staircases painted in white amongst the dark palm trees. And the tropical plants reminded me of home (Jamaica, not Canada!) even though I couldn’t quite properly remember them in their natural settings.
When I returned to live in London, I volunteered at Kew and it was wonderful to belong to the team! To wear the t-shirt that said “Kew” and the badge that said “volunteer” and to get the discount in the cafe! Although, when we were first given our uniforms, I was not enthused about wearing trousers that came up to my armpits (slight exaggeration) – it reminded me of the time I tried on men’s jeans by mistake and couldn’t quite understand why it fit so poorly.
I’m not sure what impresses me about Kew more – the size is enormous (travelling tip #456: don’t try to do everything in one day unless you really have all day and blister packs), the magnitude of the flora on the grounds is mind-blowing, the beauty is astounding (travelling tip #23: always have your camera ready) and the volunteer guides are remarkable.
Let me give you one example – the annual display of orchids (in Feb-Mar) is just stunning. I didn’t know that many types of orchids existed and seeing them enmass takes your breath away. These photos are from their 250th anniversary celebration but they do a similar, but smaller display every year.