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Spring highlights for your group visit

Imogen Dent
29 January 2014
Blog team: 

The wonderful displays of spring colour are just beginning at Kew Gardens, and a new range of seasonal guided walks are running to enhance your group visit.

The snowdrops are bursting through now at Kew, and inside the Davies Alpine House you can see the scented flowers of paperwhite narcissi, Narcissus papyraceus, in bloom. It may only be January but the first signs of spring are appearing.

The paperwhite in flower

Narcissus papyraceus in the Alpine House

If you have a group visit planned in the next few months you have every chance of seeing spring colour somewhere at Kew Gardens, some of it truly spectacular. Orchids 2014: a plant hunter’s paradise, our annual orchid festival, begins on 8 February and runs for four weeks of colour and drama in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. By the time that closes the bulbs and blossoms are beginning. 

Glory of the snow, Chionodoxa siehei, in bloom beside the Orangery at Kew Gardens

Scilla forbesii (Chionodoxa siehei), glory of the snow, carpeting the grass near the Orangery Restaurant

Carpets of bulbs in bloom

Between the drifts of daffodils, carpets of Scilla forbesii (Chionodoxa siehei), and the classic high-Victorian parterres outside the Palm House, Kew is home to over five million spring bulbs.

Depending on when your visit is planned you may find yourself strolling beside sheets of delicate mauve Crocus tomasinianus in late February or admiring the sky-blue stars of camassias along the Riverside Walk in April or May. 

A carpet of early-flowered Crocus thomasinianus in bloom
Early-flowered Crocus tommasinianus in flower along Princess Walk 

'Spring Spectacular' - the perfect seasonal guided walk

Groups can book a themed guided tour to make the most of the day’s flowering highlights. 'Spring Spectacular' walks can run any day from 1 March to 30 April and will take you round the best of what’s in bloom, from dainty alpines in the Rock Garden to huge sweeps of golden daffodils along the Broad Walk. Call 0208 332 5604 for more details or email tours@kew.org.

Guided walks are a great way to get an insider’s view and learn more about the plants you’re seeing, as well as catching highlights you might miss otherwise. For those who prefer to split up and do their own thing, ask at the gates as you arrive to find out what is looking good, or consult the Spring bulbs and blossoms webpage before your visit.

daffodil in flower

Radiant golden daffodils at Kew Gardens in early spring

Cherry blossom

Lovers of spring blossom won’t be disappointed here either, and on a fine April day what could be more enjoyable than an afternoon of cherry blossom-viewing? It’s long been a custom in Japan, and Cherry Walk here at Kew is planted with classic Japanese cherry varieties such as “Mume”, “Kanzan”, “Hatazakura” and “Tai Haku”, for a joyful show of white and coloured petals against the sky.

Some of the first blossoming trees flowering in the open are the cherry plums, Prunus cerasifera, often in bloom by mid-February, and these are followed by all the many species and cultivars of cherry, crab apple, plum and pear, and finally by the hawthorn family in May. By then one can also see azaleas and rhododendrons, and maybe early magnolias and rose cultivars will be appearing. So spring at Kew offers the visitor one long succession of colourful displays, month after month.

Cherry blossom near the Palm House

Cherry Walk in April, looking towards the Palm House 

Restoration of the Temperate House

Also this spring there’s the chance to learn more about one of our biggest ongoing projects. The restoration of the Victorian Temperate House has just begun, and special guided tours are now running for those who’d like to learn more about the history and architecture of this enormous building, and about the major restoration which is due to be completed in summer 2018.

Tours of the Conservation Area

As well as this, for the first time during May 2014 special guided walking tours will be running in the Conservation Area here at Kew. This area of woods south of Queen Charlotte’s Cottage was donated to the Gardens by Queen Victoria on condition it was maintained as a natural woodland. The Conservation Area is carefully managed as a nature reserve, and this is a rare opportunity to discover the woodland plants, trees and wildlife that thrive in this undisturbed corner of Kew Gardens. 

Bluebells at Kew gardens

The Conservation Area at Kew Gardens, one of the finest natural bluebell woods in the London area 

This tour is a little bit different from our usual guided walks. It can only take place on selected dates, and is not only behind the scenes but also, as it were, off-road. You’ll be walking between the trees and possibly on rough or muddy ground. Sensible footwear is a must, and these tours can take a maximum of 15 people, so they aren’t suitable for larger groups.

Booking

Tours of the Temperate House Restoration Project and Conservation Area are now available to book from tours@kew.org.

Any chance to get behind the scenes has the potential to be fascinating. I’m certainly hoping to join one of these tours myself before they finish.

- Imogen -
 


 

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