Great Broad Walk Borders

The Great Broad Walk Borders form the longest double herbaceous border in the country. They stretch for 320 metres along either side of the Broad Walk path at Kew Gardens.

About the Borders

The Broad Walk was originally designed to serve as an impressive formal promenade to the newly opened Palm House.

We wanted to bring back the atmosphere of an ornamental promenade to the Palm House and emphasise the perspective. We planted new borders and a row of topiary yew trees (Taxus baccata) along the edge of the path on each side. The new borders opened in spring 2016.

Planting and design

A series of circles are bisected by the path to create the shape of a bean pod. This design was 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 planted 30,000 plants for a great diversity of texture and colour. The borders are at their best between June and September, and 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 are the themes with examples of star plants:

  • Hybrids and cultivars - Penstemon 'Schoenholzeri'
  • Lamiaceae - Perovskia 'Blue Spire'
  • Compositae - Heliopsis 'Summer Nights'
  • Monocots - Dwarf red-hot poker
  • Plant life cycles - Verbascum 'Spica'
  • Pollination - Milky bellflower
  • Seed dispersal - Geranium 'Rozanne'
  • Shade tolerance - 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

All cereals, palms, bamboos and sugar canes are monocots. As a source of human and animal food, monocots are of great economic importance. 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 developing 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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