Palm House Zone
Around the Palm House
The area around the Palm House is the heart of the 1850s Nesfield
and Burton landscape. Their design overlies and dominates the earlier
18th century Kew Garden landscape largely designed by Frederick,
Prince of Wales, Princess Augusta, William Chambers and Lord Bute.
This accumulation of design activity over the years has created
a variety of landscape characters, making this one of the most interesting
and varied areas of Kew. Designs range though small plots of open
lawn, formal flowerbeds, terraces with seats, an ornamental lake,
clumps of mature trees and open vistas. It presents an unusual mix
of high Victorian design, 18th century formality and 20th century
The area is dominated by its keynote buildings, particularly the
Palm House and Waterlily House.
The Palm House is a Grade I listed building and is one of the world's
finest surviving 19th century glasshouses. Built of wrought iron
and glass, it was the largest greenhouse in the world when it opened
and remains one of the architectural icons of Kew. It is surrounded
by a terrace and flowerbeds, which have replaced Nesfield's original
parterres, and overlooks a lightly wooded landscape comprised of
plantings of diverse genera.
Just by the Palm House, the Waterlily House is another of Kew's
classic listed buildings, again with ironwork by the builder of
the Palm House, Richard Turner. Built in 1852, it was then the widest
single span glasshouse in the world, designed specifically to house
the huge attraction of the age, the giant Amazonian waterlily.
Dividing the landscape are Nesfield's three vistas, the Syon Vista
leading to the Thames, the Pagoda Vista and a minor vista to a Cedar
of Lebanon. These three vistas, together with the Broad Walk, form
the core structural elements of the Nesfield/Burton design and are
best experienced from the western entrance to the Palm House.
The visitor entrance at Victoria Gate, well serviced by public
transport, has a modern visitor centre. Its popularity with visitors
is no doubt due to the high visibility and ease of access to the
The Broad Walk, the Vistas and numerous other paths lead visitors
easily into other areas of the Gardens. Museum Number One opposite
the Palm House, is the educational resource centre for the Gardens
and is also home to the fascinating Plants+People Exhibition.
In the Palm House Zone:
to: Places overview
On to: Pagoda