Great Broad Walk Borders

Opened in the summer of 2016 and stretching 320 metres along either side of the Broad Walk path at Kew Gardens, the Great Broad Walk Borders form the longest double herbaceous border in the country.

About the Borders

Originally created in the 1840s, the Broad Walk was designed to serve as an impressive formal promenade to the newly opened Palm House.

To bring back the atmosphere of an ornamental promenade to the Palm House and emphasise the perspective, these new borders run right along the edge of the path and a row of topiary yew trees (Taxus baccata) have been planted each side.  A new series of circles are now bisected by the path in the shape of a bean pod, inspired by the tropical vine Entada gigas – the largest seed pod in the legume family – also known as the sea bean or monkey ladder. 

We have planted 30,000 plants for a diversity of texture and colour with the greatest impact between June and September. There are bulbs for spring and some late flowers and seed heads for autumn interest.

A large number are cultivars, selected to give an extended flowering season and reliably bring colour to the scheme. The borders also include some wild plant species and plants from Kew's own collections that have been propagated to make the borders unique and distinct.

Border themes

The circles in the border design are themed to reflect the botanical and horticultural science at the heart of Kew’s mission. Some beds are based on a single plant family or group with others highlighting various characteristics of plants, and how they may have adapted to environmental conditions in the wild.

These star plants are examples of each theme:

  1. Hybrids and cultivars - Penstemon 'Schoenholzeri'
  2. Lamiaceae zone - Perovskia ''Blue Spire'
  3. Compositae zone - Heliopsis 'Summer Nights'
  4. Monocots zone - Dwarf red-hot poker
  5. Plant life cycles zone - Verbascum 'Spica'
  6. Pollination zone - Milky bellflower
  7. Seed dispersal zone - Geranium 'Rozanne'
  8. Shade tolerance zone - King's lily (Lilium regale)

Why these plants matter

Lamiaceae bed

The Lamiaceae family is an important group of plants for Kew’s research. Kew scientists use the diverse living and preserved collections to research the bioactivity of Salvia extracts and compounds underlying their medicinal use.

Perovskia in the Lamiaceae bed

Monocots zone

Monocots are of great economic importance as a source of human and animal food. All cereals, palms, bamboos and sugar canes are monocots. Kew carries out research on a wide range of monocots, from the classification of orchids to the evolution and economic uses of grasses.

Kniphofia cultivar in the Monocots bed

Pollination zone

Insects are crucial for many plants because they need help from pollinators to produce seeds. Kew scientists are working on developing a technology which could help commercialised bees become more efficient and ensure they do not take food from wild pollinators.

Bumble bee pollinating salvia in Great Broad Walk Borders

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