The Royal Gardens

The Queen & Kew - A Royal Partnership

This historic landscape garden features elements that illustrate significant periods of the art of gardens from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The gardens house botanic collections (conserved plants, living plants and documents) that have been considerably enriched through the centuries. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant and uninterrupted contribution to the study of plant diversity and economic botany.

Digging in for Kew's 250th Anniverssary in 2009
Digging in for Kew's 250th Anniversary in 2009

Set amongst a series of parks and estates along the River Thames' south-western reaches, this historic landscape garden includes work by internationally renowned landscape architects Bridgeman, Kent, Chambers, Capability Brown and Nesfield illustrating significant periods in garden design from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The gardens house extensive botanic collections (conserved plants, living plants and documents) that have been considerably enriched through the centuries. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have made a significant and uninterrupted contribution to the study of plant diversity, plant systematics and economic botany.

The Palm House cake is cut
The Palm House cake is cut

The landscape design of Kew Botanic Gardens, their buildings and plant collections combine to form a unique testimony to developments in garden art and botanical science that were subsequently diffused around the world. The 18th century English landscape garden concept was adopted in Europe and Kew's influence in horticulture, plant classification and economic botany spread internationally from the time of Joseph Banks' directorship in the 1770s. As the focus of a growing level of botanic activity, the mid 19th century garden, which overlays earlier royal landscape gardens is centred on two large iron framed glasshouses - the Palm House and the Temperate House that became models for conservatories around the world. Elements of the 18th and 19th century layers including the Orangery, Queen Charlotte's Cottage; the folly temples; Rhododendron Dell, boundary ha-ha; garden vistas to William Chambers' pagoda and Syon Park House; iron framed glasshouses; ornamental lakes and ponds; herbarium and plant collections convey the history of the Gardens' development from royal retreat and pleasure garden to national botanical and horticultural garden before becoming a modern institution of conservation ecology in the 20th century.

With students from Kew's School of Horticulture
With students from Kew's School of Horticulture

Since their creation in the 18th century Kew Gardens have remained faithful to their initial purpose with botanists continuing to collect specimens and exchange expertise internationally. The collections of living and stored material are used by scholars all over the world.

The 44 listed buildings are monuments of the past, and reflect the stylistic expressions of various periods. They retain their authenticity in terms of design, materials and functions. Only a few buildings are being used for a purpose different from that originally intended (the Orangery now houses a restaurant). Unlike the works of architecture, in each of the landscaped garden areas, the past, present and future are so closely interwoven (except in the case of vestigial gardens created by significant artists, such as the vistas), that it is sometimes difficult to separate the artistic achievements of the past in terms of the landscape design of the different periods.

The Queens Garden
The Queen's Garden specially replanted for the 250th Anniversary

The property includes the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte's Cottage, which are the hereditary property of Queen Elizabeth II and are managed for conservation purposes by the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and Historic Royal Palaces.

The property is included in a conservation area designated by the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Part of the Buffer Zone is protected by a conservation area in the London Borough of Hounslow. Forty four buildings and structures situated on the site have been listed under the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990 as buildings of special architectural and historical interest. The whole site is Grade I on the English Heritage Register of Park and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England Permission to carry out works or change functions is subject to the approval of the local authorities, who consult English Heritage in the case of listed buildings and conservation areas

Madeleine Liu presents a Kew Gardens posy
Madeleine Liu presents a Kew Gardens posy

Since the 18th century, the Botanic Gardens of Kew have been closely associated with scientific and economic exchanges established throughout the world in the field of botany, and this is reflected in the richness of its collections. The landscape features and architectural features of the gardens reflect considerable artistic influences with regard to both the European continent and more distant regions. Kew Gardens have largely contributed to advances in many scientific disciplines, particularly botany and ecology. The landscape gardens and the edifices created by celebrated artists such as Charles Bridgeman, William Kent, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and William Chambers reflect the beginning of movements that were to have international influence. The architectural ensemble at Kew includes a number of unrivalled buildings. The historic landscape within which these buildings are situated is a remarkable palimpsest of features from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

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