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Orchids at Kew: A Plant-Hunter's Paradise

28 January 2014

Leave the winter cold outside in February 2014 and enter the hot and humid Princess of Wales Conservatory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for a truly spectacular orchid festival and a riot of colour.

Visitors will be transported into a tropical rainforest, full of horticultural displays of intense exotic colour, sounds and scents, a vision of paradise and the perfect antidote to the cold weather outside: Explore a hidden world of orchids and tropical plants as you are taken on a journey through time, retracing the footsteps of the intrepid Victorian plant-hunters, right through to their modern-day counterparts at Kew Gardens.

Orchids are some of the most valuable plants in the world, hunted by botanists, desired by collectors and admired by all for their beauty, rarity, and symbolism. The steamy display at Kew Gardens will include a cascade of Vanda orchids, drapes of tropical flowers, and a plant-hunter’s camp in the pond area, dotted with wardian cases and floating canoes bulging with plants destined for distant lands echoing Kew’s history in this area. Scientists will also be on hand on Wednesdays and Sundays to give visitors an insight into how certain species have been brought back from the brink of extinction using micro-propagation techniques.

While Orchids is a favourite on the Kew calendar, each festival is unique as Phil Griffiths, Kew’s Glasshouse Displays Coordinator explains: “The orchids have to be ordered and planted at just the right moment for just the right amount of time to catch them at their peak. The intensity of their colours, as well as the speed of their life-cycle, will depend on the level of light the glasshouse gets in February, and obviously this varies year-on-year.”

Phil continues: “Our challenge is to keep the glasshouse looking magical for a month and while we humans may not like the cold, controversially, the best weather for the plants longevity is crisp and dull with no sun! The display’s transience is part of what makes this festival so special, and its beauty depends on both man and nature.”

World Premiere of a New Orchid

A beautiful new orchid will be exclusively premiered at the festival to visitors. This never-seen-before hybrid exists in very limited numbers and, with stunning cascaded petals of varying shades of fuchsia and gently mottled edges, is set to delight and surprise.

Half Term Activities

Children will become plant explorers and discover the awesome world of orchids! Visit the encampment and find out how Kew specialists go about their plant-finding missions today. Try on some explorer’s gear, get hands on with maps and compasses and find out about skills used on expeditions.

15th – 23rd February / 11.00am-3.30pm daily
Free of charge
Drop-in
Children must be accompanied by an adult
Princess of Wales Film Room

Guided Tours

Tropical Nursery Tours
Take a tour behind-the-scenes of the Tropical Nursery, led by our volunteer guides. Discover the fascinating world of carnivorous plants, bromeliads, orchids and cacti, as well the nursery’s conservation work around the globe.

15th & 22nd February and 1st and 8th March
1.30pm, 2pm, 2.30pm (£5)
Booking advisable on: 020 8332 5604
Meet at the White Peaks Shop

Meet the Orchid Experts in the Tropical Nursery
A rare chance to enter the behind-the-scenes Orchid zones with our volunteer guides. Each tour will be followed by either Q&A sessions or potting demonstrations and tips on orchid care with Kew horticulturists.

Thursday 13th 20th 27th February, and Thursday 6th March
Thursdays at 1.30 and 2pm - tour with Q&A session afterwards (£5)
Thursdays 2.30pm - tour with a demonstration afterwards (£15)
Booking advisable on: 020 8332 5604
Meet at the White Peaks Shop

Retail

Our shops will stock a wide range of orchids for purchase, alongside a selection of plant exploration themed products and books including The Plant Hunters; Joseph Hooker: Botanical Trailblazer; Marianne North: A Very Intrepid Painter; Wilson’s China; The Last Great Plant Hunt.

There will also be the opportunity to purchase the new and exclusive variety of orchid showcased in the display – A limited supply will be available from the Kew Victoria Plaza Shop for the duration of the festival.

Ends

For press enquiries please contact the Press Office: 020 8332 5607 / pr@kew.org

More about orchids - http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/for-gardeners/orchids/

More about the Princess of Wales Conservatory - http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/Princess-of-Wales-Conservatory.htm

Images from last year’s festival are available to download from http://www.kew.org/press/images/orchids2013.html. Please contact the press office for a username and password.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract over 1.5m visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately half its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.