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.
Kew after dark
Kew Gardens will be opening after dark presenting an exciting new ticketed event: Christmas at Kew. Visitors will be able to stroll along an illuminated trail through our enchanting winter landscape as darkness falls in the late afternoon, enjoying a leisurely walk which should take around 1 ½ hours.
Christmas at Kew Gardens
Discounted tickets for groups
Knowing how popular our hot glasshouses are in winter, we’re offering discounted joint tickets exclusively for groups that combine a daytime visit with Christmas at Kew so that you can experience the best of both worlds – exotic rainforests by day and enchanting landscapes after dark.
Arrive as late as 1.30pm and depart by 6.30pm for a great Christmas group outing (although we encourage you to arrive as early as 9.30am and to stay until 10pm if you wish).
The joint ticket, giving a discount of 25% compared to buying each ticket separately, can be pre-booked through Kew Gardens’ group bookings office. Contact Imogen or Paul to discuss your visit and for more information and a booking form.
Tel. 0208 332 5648
Suggested Christmas at Kew itinerary for groups
To help plan your visit, we've put together a suggested itinerary:
1.30pm – Arrive at our Victoria Gate entrance on Kew Road. You can arrive at Kew Gardens anytime from 9.30am onwards. We recommend arriving no later than 1.30pm for enough time to enjoy all of the glasshouses.
Spend your first hour in our glasshouses: temperatures can reach up to 27°C. Start with the Palm House which replicates an exotic rainforest before heading to the Princess of Wales Conservatory with its ten climatic zones. Walk back to Victoria Plaza by 2.50pm to board the Kew Explorer.
3pm – Ride the Kew Explorer land train for a guided tour of Kew Gardens. There’s a live commentary pointing out highlights and sharing fun facts and history. You’ll arrive back at Victoria Plaza around 3.40pm. Group tickets for the Kew Explorer tour cost just £1.50 when pre-booked with your joint entry tickets.
Fans of botanical art may wish to visit our art galleries instead of taking the Kew Explorer tour. Wander along to the Marianne North Gallery to see fascinating paintings by this extraordinary Victorian lady traveller. Next door, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery is the first public gallery in the world dedicated to showing botanical art. The art galleries close at 3.45pm, so head back towards Victoria Plaza at that time.
4pm – Enjoy the Christmas Village at Victoria Plaza. As darkness falls, our Christmas tree and traditional decorations will create a lively atmosphere. Victoria Plaza Cafe will be open selling plenty of treats including homemade soup, delicious pies and hot drinks. A selection of Christmas market stalls and Kew Gardens’ shop will offer a range of exclusive gift ideas.
4.45pm – By booking joint tickets to Kew Gardens by day and Christmas at Kew after dark, you guarantee that your entire group can commence their walk through Kew-after-hours at 4.45pm. You’ll be walking a one mile trail which is wheelchair accessible and largely flat. The magical views are definitely worth the walk with dancing lakeside reflections and a mesmerising garden of fire bringing some of Kew’s iconic landmarks to life. There will be seating and a rest point with refreshments half way along the trail.
6.30pm – Gather at Victoria Plaza for a coach pick-up at 6.30 / 6.45pm.
So there, in five hours, is the perfect festive excursion! We think we’ve crammed a little too much in already, and that doesn’t even include the Alpine House House or treetop walkway.
Group Christmas lunch
Or, for a truly special Christmas visit, book your group Christmas lunch in the Orangery Restaurant. A two-course lunch can be booked from £15.50 and includes Norfolk Bronze roasted turkey with spiced cranberries, bacon and smoked walnut stuffing, crispy potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Private dining or reserved tables can be arranged. Contact Barbara Wutte at Peyton and Byrne to discuss lunch options to make your visit special, tel. 020 7412 5522.
Joint tickets for groups are available on these dates:
Thursday 28 November to Sunday 1 December
Thursday 5 December to Sunday 8 December
Thursday 12 December to Sunday 15 December
Thursday 19 December to Monday 23 December
Thursday 26 December to Saturday 4 January
Joint ticket prices and discount for groups
|Regular price||Group rate|
|Adults||£27||£19.75 (save £7.25)|
|Concessions||£25||£18.75 (save 6.25)|
- Paul -
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Autumn at Kew
Kew Gardens in autumn must be one of the most photogenic spots in London. With characteristic morning and evening mists, and earlier sunsets giving richly coloured skies towards the end of day, autumn must have some of the loveliest natural light of any season. Here at Kew, leaves and fruits are glowing, and fairy-like seed heads dance in the oblique autumn sun.
Golden autumn leaves of the maidenhair tree, Gingko biloba, at Kew Gardens
At almost any time from mid-September to early November you can hope to see autumnal colours somewhere in the Gardens. Asian maples and North American liquidambars and vines turn scarlet, and European species such as cherry trees and the graceful southern beeches from Australasia fade to glorious gold. Kew’s arboretum contains trees from all over the world, so the fall colour here is a global spectacle.
Vines on the terrace of the Pavilion Restaurant at Kew Gardens in their autumn foliage colours of scarlet and acid yellow
...and poetic vistas
Views open out as the leaves start to fall, and it’s one of the best times to take in the long vistas and panoramas. The autumn leaf-fall also opens up impressive views from the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, so make sure to climb to the top, and stroll through the tree canopy and take in the panorama of west London from 18 metres up.
For even more striking shots, don’t forget that you’ll find much of the autumn colour redoubled if you head to the Lake or the Palm House Pond for the reflections. Wildlife enthusiasts may like to know that you can often see migrant wildfowl on the Lake, as well as the resident population of swans and other water birds. Elsewhere, squirrels, jays and crows are collecting their stores of food for the winter, and even the resident peacocks are more approachable now the breeding season has passed.
Autumnal reflections in the waters of Kew's extensive Lake
Striking textures of autumn
For the happy owner of a macro lens, Kew Gardens offers a feast of textures and patterns. Look down as you walk, for rich mats of fallen leaves, nuts and beech-mast. Along the Broad Walk and Pagoda Vista you’ll find glossy brown and black conkers, sweet chestnuts and acorns on the ground. The crab apple trees behind the Waterlily House and by Victoria Gate café terrace are usually laden with scarlet fruits, and don’t miss the more unusual fruits of the sausage tree near Victoria Gate and the extraordinary osage oranges.
The weird fruits of the osage orange, Maclura pomifera, at Kew Gardens
Make sure to take in the Grass Garden, one of our hidden gems, where delicate grass seed heads of every form and colour shimmer in the oblique autumn sunshine. This small formal garden is packed with the rich textures and elegant forms of dozens of decorative grasses, from the vibrant red of Japanese blood grass to the silver-white heads of the giant pampas grass.
Delicate seed heads of Miscanthus grass in autumn
The nearby Duke’s Garden is a wonderful spot for floral colour, with stunning plantings of sneezeweeds, dahlias and sedums, salvias, penstemons and achilleas, all of them flowering until the first frosts. The striking tropical borders, too, are at the height of their growth in late summer.
All over the Gardens at this time of year you can see autumn-flowering bulbs like Cyclamen hederifolium, Colchicums and autumn crocus. They spring up among the limestone boulders of the Rock Garden and blossom in swathes along Holly Walk and beneath the pleached hornbeam alley behind Kew Palace.
For some more unusual flowers, head to the Davies Alpine House where the displays are changed regularly to showcase whatever is at its best; expect crimson gladioli from South Africa and golden Sternbergia lutea and dainty nerines as the autumn moves on, as well as the giant Madeiran squill and other fascinating plants from mountain regions worldwide.
A dramatic close-up of the striking lilac flower spikes of the giant Madeiran scilla, Scilla madeirensis, in the Davies Alpine House
Photo competition exhibition
As well as flowers, you can be inspired by award-winning images from International Garden Photographer of the Year 2013. From 5 October through 3 November Kew Gardens will be hosting an exhibition of the winners and shortlisted entrants to the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. These eye-catching prints will be on display in the Nash Conservatory.
All in all, the one thing you mustn't forget on an autumn visit to Kew Gardens is a camera!
- Imogen -
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An IncrEdibles Autumn
Since autumn is the season of fruitfulness it’s appropriate that this year’s IncrEdibles festival runs through until 3 November. If you’ve been on the London Underground recently, you may have noticed our striking IncrEdibles posters. There’ll be a new autumnal design coming for the second phase of the festival, so watch out for a new image with stunning colours.
Colourful autumn pumpkins and squashes will be growing along the Broadwalk, with more pumpkins decorating the Waterlily House this October. Other new displays will focus on the extraordinary world of fungi. The button mushrooms we can buy so readily in any supermarket are only the beginning of a whole world of fascinating species, stories, and flavours.
The Global Kitchen Garden
One of my favourite parts of IncrEdibles so far is the Global Kitchen Garden. I don’t have a garden of my own and this is pretty much my dream garden! Edible plants of every kind, from all around the world, have been planted in a series of raised beds near the Lilac Garden. Round the outside are fruit trees and arches with fruiting climbers; in the raised beds you can find everything from plants you’ll recognise instantly through to the most extraordinary exotics.
At the centre a global map tells you more about their origins and the journeys they’ve made from their native habitats to our tables here in Britain. There are salads, root vegetables, fruit bushes, seasonings and herbs and pretty much every kind of crop imaginable, and by early autumn they should all be at their peak.
A previous year's pumpkin display in the Waterlily House
There’s going to be bright foliage colour everywhere in autumn, with scarlet vines, fiery smoke trees and red and gold maples all around the Gardens. We have trees from all over the world in Kew’s arboretum, so almost any time from September to November you’re likely to find fall colour somewhere in the Gardens. If you climb to the top of the Treetop Walkway you’ll find the vistas are opening out as leaves begin to fall, giving you amazing views across the whole of west London.
Autumn foliage at Kew Gardens
Indoors, in the Princess of Wales Conservatory in autumn you’ll find orchids like the stunning necklace orchid (Coelogyne dayana) while late-flowering tropical waterlilies bring colour to the central pool. Look out too for agaves, cacti and living stones, and colourful heliconias, bromeliads and bananas in bloom. More banana species, as well as exotic sights such as cocoa pods and cycad cones, can be found in the iconic Palm House, and the changing displays in the Davies Alpine House feature colourful seasonal treasures from southern Africa and South America.
The dramatic flowers of a necklace orchid (Coelogyne dayana) in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
So whether you come for the festival or simply to enjoy Kew's stunning autumn colours, start planning your Autumn visit now!
- Imogen -
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If you’ve ever wanted to row a boat out across a lake to explore a grotto underneath a giant pineapple, this will be your chance. And if, like me, you haven’t really contemplated giant pineapples before, well, this festival will be your chance to do just that – sit and contemplate one, raised on high on an artificial fruit island in the middle of the Palm House pond, as part of this summer’s celebration of incredible edible plants from around the world.
I’ve just seen the final designs for the poster we’ll be using to promote this extraordinary festival; so this is an exclusive preview of the image we hope you’ll be seeing across London and in the press this summer...
The colourful poster for Kew Gardens’ IncrEdibles festival
Tutti Frutti boating lake
Bompas and Parr, renowned for their unique brand of food-inspired interactive experiences, are coming to Kew to create the Tutti Frutti installation, including a boating lake and floating pineapple island. For those who don’t feel like rowing round the island, there’s also going to be a bridge, so you can walk across as well.
What’s more, there’ll also be a range of new displays and interactive exhibits, such as a giant tea party table with plants growing out of it, a bouncy carrot play zone for families, and a global kitchen garden featuring over 90 edible plants from all over the world.
At the weekends, you can get inspiration for your own edible gardening - Kew apprentices and students from the famous Kew School of Horticulture will be available at the Student Vegetable Gardens to chat about vegetable gardening techniques and the different types of produce they’re growing this year.
Delicious pumpkins and squashes make an appearance for autumn
Pumpkins and fungi
In the autumn, the festival’s due to enter a second phase. I haven’t yet heard all the details so I’ll be updating on this later in the spring when I know more. I do know that we’re planning to have no less than 16 different varieties of hardy pumpkins and squashes growing in beds along the Broad Walk. Hopefully the resulting display will be at its colourful best in good time for Halloween.
The other focus for autumn is going to be on fungi. You can learn more about common edible mushrooms as well as the other fungi used in food, such as that vital ingredient, yeast. Amazingly, without the humble yeast, we’d have no beer or wine, and our only bread would be flatbreads like tortillas!
We’re hoping that visitors will enjoy learning more about the extraordinary stories of edible plants and fungi as they visit Kew Gardens this summer and autumn. I’m certainly picking up some fascinating facts already. I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves her daily cups of tea but I’d never really thought before about the fact that I’m drinking boiled camellia leaves...
- Imogen -
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Summer’s a great time to visit any garden, let alone one as large and full of interest as Kew. This year’s summer festival celebrates edible plants from around the world and looks set to add plenty of extra seasonal interest. As a keen foodie, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what the planned Global Kitchen Garden will showcase. I’ll be writing more about this in a few weeks’ time.
A classic part of any summer garden is roses, and over the last few years I’ve been watching the Rose Garden here at Kew really get going. It was completely restored in 2009 and replanted to the original Victorian plans of William Nesfield. As the roses settle in and get bushier and sturdier the quantity of blooms has increased each year. Last summer, on a sunny day you could smell the perfume from a hundred metres away, even on the other side of a hedge taller than a man. All we need is a few more sunny days this year...
The Waterlily House
Don’t miss the Waterlily House, Kew’s smallest and hottest glasshouse, where the fascinating giant waterlilies are grown. You can see a few of them in the picture above. By late summer when they’re fully grown, the lily pads can measure well over a metre across and apparently it’s true that they are strong enough to hold the weight of a small child. Around them in the tropical pool you’ll see a dozen or more other varieties of waterlilies from all over the world, as well as the beautiful sacred lotus from India, exotic food plants like rice and chillies, and Aristolochia vines with their weird hanging flowers.
As for the hidden gems; to start with, there’s always something beautiful to see in the Davies Alpine House and the surrounding Rock Garden. Another favourite area of mine is the secluded Mediterranean Garden, tucked in the lee of a mound midway between the Palm House and the Xstrata Treetop Walkway. The mound itself is crowned by King William’s Temple, one of the Gardens’ many old follies, and the slopes below it are planted with all the flora of a hillside in Italy or Greece. There are umbrella pines, cypresses, Spanish broom and cistus, and even a miniature olive grove...
The Mediterranean Garden
For more peace and quiet, you can simply wander through the arboretum and pinetum and enjoy the shade on a hot day. This is the quieter end of the Gardens, so you may meet some of our resident wildlife such as the peacocks (often pretty vocal at this time of year). If you stroll along the lakeside you could see ducklings, goslings and cygnets feeding peacefully with their parents, and you might catch a glimpse of a kingfisher.
The Lake and Sackler Crossing
- Imogen -
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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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