Kew Gardens' group visits blog
Welcome to Kew Gardens' groups visit blog.
Kew Gardens’ group bookings team is here to help you plan your day out. In this blog we’ll be introducing attractions and ideas for group travel organisers to help you make the most of your visit. Paul and Imogen look forward to helping you plan your trip. Contact us on 020 8332 5648 or by email on email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Radiant golden daffodils at Kew Gardens in early spring
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 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.
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.
Tours of the Temperate House Restoration Project and Conservation Area are now available to book from email@example.com.
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 -
- Group visits at Kew Gardens - prices and booking
- Cherry Walk
- Temperate House restoration project
- Conservation Area
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One of the liveliest aspects of my job is the group travel fairs that Paul and I attend each year. Starting with Excursions, held in the Great Hall at Alexandra Palace on 25 January 2014, the season for group travel fairs runs right through the spring, and this year Kew Gardens is hosting one of the best on the calendar. So if you’re a group travel organiser, don’t miss the chance to sign up and visit during our amazing orchid festival.
Inviting all group travel organisers to Kew Gardens
On Saturday 15 February 2014 one of the annual Beautiful South fairs, run by Tourism South East, will be coming to the Gardens. It’s one of the premium events on the group travel planning calendar and we’re really excited to be working with TSE to make it happen.
A typical bustling scene at a past group travel fair run by Tourism South East
Everything for your group – all under one roof
Lots of attractions and exhibitors will be setting up their stalls in one of our lovely exhibition venues. If you’re a travel organiser for a group or social club, or a planner for a tour operator, you’ll have the chance to meet representatives from some of the South East’s most fascinating attractions, all under one roof, and find out about a fabulous range of days out. You can find out more on the Tourism South East website.
Kew Gardens showcased just for you
If you join us on 15 February, there will be mini tours running on the Kew Explorer Bus and a chance to visit Kew Palace as well as our lovely tropical glasshouses before you leave at the end of the day. So you can see the colourful displays of orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, or bask in the steamy heat of the iconic Palm House.
A spectacular display from a previous year's Orchid Festival in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Meet the team
Fairs like this aren’t just a rewarding event for travel planners and organisers, they’re a lot of fun for the exhibitors as well. It’s a great opportunity for someone like me to get out of the office and meet face to face with people I normally only interact with at the end of a telephone. I love making that personal contact, sometimes putting a face to a name I’ve been hearing for months or even years. There’s a very special energy and a buzz of excitement at a busy, bustling travel fair, and even though it can be tiring being an exhibitor I really look forward to the fair season each spring.
So if you don’t already subscribe to the Tourism South East website for updates and information about all their events, sign up now and make sure to come to Kew Gardens in February, to what we hope will be the group travel event of the year!
More fairs to come in the spring months
If you can’t make it to our TSE fair on 15 February or to Excursions on 25 January, maybe you will be coming to another fair where we’ll be exhibiting. You can meet Paul and me at the Essex Group Travel Fair in Colchester on Thursday 20 February, the Oxfordshire TSE fair at Heythrop Park on Saturday 1 March, and Great for Groups South at Heathrow on Wednesday 16 April.
The Palm House at Kew Gardens on a sunny spring day
We’ll be delighted to chat about all your visit requirements and you can also pick up a copy of our gorgeous new colour brochure for 2014. You can download the online version (pdf).
- Imogen -
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The official title varies from year to year, but if you say to someone who works here, 'When is the big orchid display this year?', they’ll probably know what you mean! It’s an event we all look forward to.
So why not plan a group visit between 8 February and 9 March 2014, to brighten your winter with this blast of tropical splendour?
Tropical warmth and colour at Kew Gardens
The exhibition comes around just at that point in the year when we're getting a bit tired of cloudy skies and starting to watch out for the early crocuses. Suddenly here at Kew the Princess of Wales Conservatory is transformed into a feast for the eyes, with flower-clad pillars and arches of brilliant tropical colour. Next year once again the orchids will be back, and I’ve just seen some of the details for the planned displays.
One of the dramatic flower pillars in the 2012 orchid exhibition
The theme for next year’s festival is going to be great plant hunters of the past and present day. So, as well as the colourful displays and showcasing of rare species, there’ll be a chance to learn more both about the adventures of 19th century plant hunters and the dangers they faced, and about the work of modern Kew botanists studying rare and endangered orchids around the world. Come for the amazing spectacle of colour, and the tropical heat, and you’ll leave with a bit of history as well!
Orchids for your home
Since our shop at Victoria Plaza will be selling an extensive orchid range all through the festival, you can even buy these lovely plants for your home as well. Maybe look for something a bit more unusual or treat yourself to an exciting new cultivar, for some tropical colour for this coming year?
Walking through archways hung with tropical colour in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
Behind the scenes - learn more about Kew’s orchids
For a fascinating extra, why not book one of our Tropical Nursery tours? A knowledgeable guide from Kew Gardens’ award-winning team will take your group into areas not usually open to the public to see how our huge collections of orchids are managed, and learn more about the care and conservation of these glorious tropical plants.
Tours must be booked in advance and are available on Wednesdays from 12 February through 5 March 2014. For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8332 5604.
- Imogen -
1 comment on 'Kew's orchid exhibition brings tropical warmth and colour to the spring'
As I write this, the first signs of autumn are appearing around me in the Gardens and, from the calls I’ve been getting in the office, it’s clear that group travel organisers are now thinking about their trips and activities for next year.
It’s particularly pleasing to have had enquiries about our new Christmas at Kew event (see Paul’s blog post from a few weeks ago) and about winter day trips. Because winter at Kew Gardens can be lovely, and the title of this post should give you a clue as to why!
A carpet of snowdrops
To begin with, we have plants here from all over the world, so something will always be blooming year-round in the glasshouses. But one of the pleasures of winters here is waiting to see how early one can spot the first signs of spring outdoors in the Gardens themselves.
Signs of spring appear again
There’s something particularly exciting about seeing flowers like snowdrops as they start to appear, bravely blooming whatever the weather.
So if you’re a member of a gardening club or a galanthophile club, why not make a late winter visit to Kew Gardens with your group part of your annual calendar, and enjoy these graceful harbingers of spring?
Galanthus elwesii in the Rock Garden
Giant snowdrops of Turkey
A favourite place for me to check is a spot in the Rock Garden. Under an elegant Japanese acer near the Davies Alpine House there’s a big clump of Galanthus elwesii, the giant snowdrop, native to the Taurus mountains in Turkey. It’s one of the earliest-flowering species, and this particular clump is often in bloom by late December. It always cheers me up no end, seeing these delicate beauties appear during the shortest and darkest days of the year, even flowering bravely through a blanket of snow.
Carpets of pure white
Then, from late January through most of February, the real spectacle starts to appear. Sweeping snow-white drifts of the common snowdrop, G. nivalis, carpet the ground near Queen Charlotte’s Cottage and the slopes of the Mound near the Palm House. It’s one of the best snowdrop displays in the London area and a real delight for eyes tired of seeing dead leaves and wintry greys everywhere.
Snowdrops and winter aconites blooming by Victoria Gate
Other winter beauties
At much the same time of year you can expect to see the perky golden flowers of the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, appearing near Victoria Gate and peeping through the grass along Holly Walk. On the slopes on the Mediterranean Garden the witch hazels (Hamamelis species and cultivars) also come into bloom in January, with threadlike flowers spreading a delicious lemony scent in the cold air.
Colourful witch hazel in flower beside King William's Temple in the Mediterranean Garden
As well as several dozen snowdrop species, the Rock Garden is also home to beautiful winter-flowering cyclamen, and the nearby Davies Alpine House shows displays of delicate alpines from all over the world.
So don’t forget that garden clubs (and keen gardeners everywhere) can find so much to see year-round at Kew Gardens, where there will always be jewel-like colours and sweet scents, even in the depths of winter.
- Imogen -
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Kew Gardens has long been a royal playground, where King George III and Queen Charlotte brought up their 15 children in Britain’s smallest and most intimate royal palace and enjoyed summer picnics and entertainments in the grounds.
Prices held at 2012 levels
We’ve got some good news for group travel organisers planning a visit next year, as it’s just been confirmed that entry to Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens will once again be available at no extra cost next year. Kew Palace is open throughout the summer; the opening dates for 2014 have now been set as Saturday 29 March to Sunday 28 September.
What’s more, it’s also been confirmed that 2014 ticket prices are going to be held for the third year running, with no price increase. So once again, if you book in advance for our 15% discount rate, your group tickets will cost you just £12.35 for adults and £10.65 for seniors and other concessions! If numbers aren’t certain till the day of your visit, our groups on-the-day rates will also remain at the 2012 rates for another year; that’s £13.05 for adults and £11.25 for concessions.
So why not plan a visit to Royal Kew?
The charming Kew Palace, family home of King George III and Queen Charlotte
Reminders of Kew Gardens' royal history
Kew Gardens was founded just over 250 years ago by the then Princess of Wales, Princess Augusta. Her son, the future King George III, would have known her little botanical garden intimately as he and his large family actually lived here. That first garden beside Kew Palace was just nine acres, compared to modern Kew Gardens’ 326-acre extent. Just like great oaks, great gardens from small beginnings grow!
As well as Kew Palace itself, another link to our royal past can be found with the Old Lions, venerable trees planted in Princess Augusta’s time which can still be found growing and thriving here today.
One of Kew's Old Lions, the oriental plane, Platanus orientalis, on Kew Palace lawn
So, if you like the idea of a royal walk at Kew, you can follow in the footsteps of Princess Augusta and King George III and his family, seeing cosy Kew Palace where they made their family home, and visiting trees they would have known as saplings.
For a final touch of Georgian style, why not take in some of the remaining follies built for the royal family to enjoy when they were living in Kew Palace? The little Temple of Aeolus, on the Mound by the Palm House Pond, and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, away in the wooded Conservation Area, both date from this royal period in Kew Gardens’ history. Although visitors can’t normally go inside the famous ten-storey Pagoda, they can enjoy the handsome vertical accent it provides as the backdrop of many fine vistas and views.
The Pagoda, one of several impressive follies built by George III at Kew Gardens
Have afternoon tea where royal orange trees once grew
The elegant Orangery is another royal relic, as this was Kew’s first-ever hothouse, built for Princess Augusta in 1761. It didn’t work very well as a glasshouse (orange trees like much more light, apparently) and nowadays it’s used as our main restaurant. That means that even when you stop for mid-afternoon tea and cakes, you’ll still be following in the footsteps of past royalty.
Visitors having afternoon tea in the Orangery Restaurant
So as Britain marks the 300th anniversary of the start of the Georgian Era, what better place to visit than this former royal residence and the Gardens that owe their very existence to our royal founder?
A group enjoying the Waterlily House
- Imogen -
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Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
Imogen Dent is the Group Bookings Coordinator at Kew Gardens and has been working here since 2005. Prior to coming to Kew she worked in a busy tourist information office, after graduating from art school in 2000. When you ring or email to make a group booking, she’ll probably be your first port of call.
Paul Chibeba is the Travel Trade and Group Bookings Manager. Paul joined Kew in 2012, returning to London after almost ten years in America. As travel trade manager, he is delighted to work with tour operators and travel planners from around the world to ensure that Kew is included in as many tours and packages as possible.
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