Last chance to visit Kew's historic Temperate House before five year restoration begins

Visitors to Kew Gardens have a last chance to see this magnificent Grade 1 listed glasshouse before it closes for restoration on Sunday 4 August 2013.

28 Jun 2013

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With restoration work starting imminently, visitors have a unique opportunity to experience the final stages of painstaking preparations before the Temperate House closes for this vital five year project. The glasshouse will remain shut until May 2018.

Moving into the 21st century

In March 2013 Kew announced it had secured a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £14.7m for the restoration of the historic Temperate House, the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world.

David Cooke, Temperate House Manager, says, "This is a fantastic opportunity to restore the Temperate House to its former glory and move the house forward into the 21st century. It is thrilling to be part of such a tremendous operation that will not only preserve the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, but also allow us to continue caring for and improving the priceless and historic plant collection that is the heart of the Temperate House." 

This is a fantastic opportunity to restore the Temperate House to its former glory

David Cooke

Previous refurbishments

The Temperate House has undergone a number of major refurbishments over the years, the last one commencing 35 years ago. In July 2013, visitors will have a last chance to see their Temperate House favourites, and learn how the famous plant collection housed within it will be cared for and expanded during the restoration.

Architect's impression of renovated Temperate House
Artist's impression of the Temperate House after restoration.

Revamping the collection

David Cooke adds,"Once the Temperate House restoration is complete, we will have the opportunity to revamp how Kew's plant collection is presented within it. We are particularly excited about increasing the number of useful and medicinal plants on display, and over the next few years we hope to travel to those parts of the world represented in the Temperate House collection."

Visitors' favorites

Some visitor favourites to look out for include the tea bush (Camellia sinensis), from which the nation’s favourite brew is made, and embodies the Temperate House’s Victorian horticultural history. The tea bush specimen in the Temperate House will be propagated by cuttings prior to the restoration to rejuvenate and increase the number of plants available. A specimen of a quinine tree (Cinchona officinalis) from South America, and historically used as a treatment for malaria, will also be propagated by cuttings and replanted once construction work has been completed. 

Photo of the rarest plant at Kew, Encephalartos woodii
Encephalartos woodii, the rarest plant at Kew

The rarest plant at Kew

The iconic glasshouse is also home to the rarest plant at Kew - the South African cycad (Encephalartos woodii). Only one specimen of this cycad has ever been found growing in the wild, and that has long since disappeared. This plant species now exists only in botanic gardens, and all of the plants are male. Reproductions have been cloned through propagation by offsets. Because of it's status, moving this cycad as part of the restoration is a risk that Kew is not willing to take because it is too large and fragile. Instead, this plant will remain in the Temperate House under coverings and the protective watch of the Temperate House team.

Other rare plants include the St Helena ebony (Trochetiopsis ebenus) named for the UK Overseas Territory from which it hails. For over 100 years this plant was thought to be extinct until two specimens were found growing in the wild on the island. Kew’s ex-situ conservation work has been invaluable to securing the future of this plant species.

Breathing Planet campaign

The Temperate House restoration project is about more than just preserving this Victorian architectural gem. As part of Kew’s Breathing Planet fundraising campaign, the project is a catalyst for a change in how Kew inspires visitors to engage with the beauty, complexity and importance of plants. Designed by Decimus Burton, the Temperate House also  embodies what Kew is about - a place of rich history and heritage, a world-renowned collection of plants, and a science programme that focuses on the potential plants have to play in addressing today's challenges, such as food security and climate change.

Don't miss your final chance to see the Temperate House before it closes for refurbishment on Sunday 4 August by buying tickets online.

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