Press Release

In Search of Paradise - Kew's ninth orchid festival reveals daring tales of Victorian exploration

For release: Friday 10 January 2003

In association with Swan Hellenic Discovery Cruises

Supported by Singapore Botanic Gardens and Singapore Airlines

15 February to 16 March 2003

  • Half a million orchids on display in a tropical paradise
  • Exhibition of Victorian orchid hunters - illustrations, letters and paintings
  • Orchid evening events and Orangery dining package
  • Behind the scenes tours
  • Day courses and lectures

Of all the plants which fired the imagination of Victoria society, perhaps the most exciting and dramatic were the orchids. Alongside the allure of the exotic, sensuous flowers were the daring tales of botanical expeditions which went with them. These told of exquisite orchid discoveries in dangerous locations, bravery and bravado in their acquisition.

In Search of Paradise, Kew’s ninth orchid festival is inspired by the adventurous world of the Victorian plant hunters. The Princess of Wales Conservatory becomes a steamy orchid paradise. Half a million flowers embellish every space, hanging from trees, grouped around rock pools, brilliant amid the tropical foliage. A special exhibition in White Peaks brings to life the journeys of the Victorian orchid hunters with facsimile paintings, illustrations and letters.

This year’s festival features three Orchid Evenings, when the Princess of Wales Conservatory transports visitors from cold winter evenings to velvety tropical nights amid the dramatically lit orchid displays. Visitors to the Orchid evenings can choose to continue this romantic experience with a themed meal in the stunning Orangery restaurant, recently restored to its 18th century splendour.

For orchid enthusiasts keen to satisfy their own obsessions, there are free behind the scenes tours of Kew’s propagation nurseries with staff who cultivate the plants. A special lecture - Orchids in Art by Dr Phillip Cribb, reveals the history and stories behind some of the exquisite illustrations and sketch books held in the collections at Kew. For budding orchid growers, a day course enables beginners to learn techniques that will help lead them to success.

Event Listings:

Orchid evenings
Wednesday 19 and 26 February and 5 March, 6.30-9.00pm.

Tickets must be booked in advance from Ticketmaster on 0870 1600 539. The price is £15 and includes a glass of wine, canapes and access to an exclusive shop selling a wide selection of orchids and orchid-related gifts. The Orchid Festival dinner package, price £40.00 includes an evening ticket as above, plus a two-course meal and glass of wine served in the Orangery. The dinner package should be booked through Ticketmaster.

Behind the scenes orchid tours
Mondays and Fridays, 17, 21, 24, 28 February and 3, 7 March.

Tours start at 1.00pm from White Peaks. They last 45 minutes and are free.

Orchids in Art lecture
By Dr Phillip Cribb. Tuesday 4 March, 7.00pm in the Jodrell Lecture Theatre.

Tickets are £4.00 (£3.00 concessions) and can be booked on 020 8332 5626 or emailing

Orchids for beginners day course
Tuesday 18 February and Thursday 6 March from 10.15am - 4.00pm.

Tickets are £45.00 (£40.00 concessions) and can be booked on 020 8332 5626 or by emailing

In Search of Paradise is presented in association with Swan Hellenic Discovery Cruises and supported by Singapore Botanic Gardens and Singapore Airlines.

Kew Gardens is open daily during the festival from 9.30am - 5.30pm.. Entry is £7.50 for adults and £5.50 for concessions. Children of 16 and under are admitted free. For details about visiting, phone 020 8332 5655 or check out Kew’s website at Kew Gardens is just 25 minutes from Charing Cross by District line tube and 20 minutes by overland train from Waterloo. Free parking is available on Kew Road and Kew Green after 10am.

For further media information and photographs, contact Hannah Rogers or Claire Hyde on 020 8332 5607/5619 (not for publication.) Images can also be downloaded from



For further Press information please contact:


Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Surrey TW9 3AB

Tel: +44 (0)20 8332 5607/5619


Wakehurst Place:

Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Wakehurst Place
West Sussex RH17 6TN

Tel: +44 (0)1444 894018