Plant Family Beds are a unique feature of botanic gardens. The layout and design may vary but their function remains the same: to arrange plants according to their relationships with each other.
Different classifications have been produced. Recent work using molecular characteristics and DNA gene sequencing by scientists around the world, including at Kew, has seen major developments in our understanding of how plants are related to each other.
The first family beds at Kew were arranged in according to the classification of French botanist Antoine Laurent de Jussieu. In 1869, the arrangement changed, to fit with the families and genera as described in Genera Plantarum (1862–83).
The Plant Family Beds now reflect the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group's latest arrangement of flowering plants (APGIII). 102 separate beds display 93 plant families. Planting shows the typical characteristics of each family, as well as highlighting the diversity that can exist within related plant groups.
There is something to see at any time but the peak season of interest is spring and summer, when a host of flowering plants can be enjoyed in this historic walled garden.
The pergola is wreathed in pairs of climbing and rambling roses, selected for their profusion and length of flowering. These include the red flowered Rosa 'Danse Des Sylphes' and pink blossomed R. 'Mary Wallace'. These reach their peak in June, creating a tunnel of colour that frames the view of the Plant Family Beds as you stroll down the central path. It was constructed in 1959, the Garden’s bicentenary and the prospect of a Royal visit provided a good opportunity for the Director, Sir George Taylor, to improve the grounds.