UNESCO World Heritage Site Challenge: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Last month I had the chance to visit Kew Gardens has been officially considered a heritage site since 2003 due to its outstanding universal value.

“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.” UNESCO

The history of Kew Gardens is complex. The history of the botanical garden goes back to 1759, when Princess Augusta (mother of king George III),  developed a large garden in Richmond with the help of gardener William Aiton and botanist Lord Bute. William Chambers at this time was responsible for several structures in the garden, including the orangery and the pagoda. The botanical garden at this point actually occupied just a small part of the garden, the rest was designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

In 1772 King George III inherited Princess Augusta’s garden after he had already inherited George II’s country house in Kew – known at Kew Palace.

George III decided to join the two royal domains and he put Joseph Banks in charge of overseeing the design of the combined gardens. Joseph Banks had just returned from his journey around the world with Captain Cook and had collected a large amount of exotic plants on his trip – and so began the substantial expansion of the exotic collections.

In 1841 the Kew Gardens were donated to the state. Soon after, several large greenhouses were added such as the famous Palm House and the Temperate House.

Kew is considered a world leader in plant science and conservation and is home to the Kew’s Millenium Seed bank. I spent nearly 8 hours wandering around the various areas, and I could definately go back and spend at least the same amount of time again, there really is a lot to explore. I was particularly fascinated by the sheer difference between plants of different climates – and even more interested in the different formations of leaves.

For more information on the UNESCO site you can visit:

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