Travel the World at Kew
Take a one-day trip around the world by exploring Kew Gardens’ breathtaking botanical landscapes
Release date: 22 July 2020
22 August – 16 October 2020
- From 22 August, visitors to Kew Gardens are invited to travel the world through our global collections
- Kew will guide visitors on a journey with specially commissioned pieces of poetry, prose and illustrations by exciting talent from around the world
- Visitors will be transported across six continents, from the tranquil Japanese Landscape to the fragrant Mediterranean Garden and towering Californian Redwood Grove
- A unique large-scale botanical sculpture in the form of a magnificent humpback whale, created by the winners of Netflix series ‘The Big Flower Fight’, will be exhibited from 22 August – 18 September
In a year when many travel plans have had to change, Kew Gardens invites visitors to satisfy their wanderlust by making a trip around the world in one day. By taking a journey through our global collections, visitors will discover landscapes, plants and architecture that can transport them from the Mediterranean to a Japanese Garden of Peace; from South African mountaintops to the forests of California – all within a few hours. At the most biodiverse postcode on the planet, visitors can reconnect with nature and discover a whole world of natural wonder.
Ten countries, six continents
Travel the World at Kew will guide visitors across six continents, through designated locations set within our UNESCO World Heritage landscape. By highlighting beautiful plants from 10 countries and regions, visitors will be transported to these parts of the world through sights, smells, and spirit of place.
These 10 specially selected spots will be elevated with words, illustrations, and personal accounts of the countries and regions highlighted, laid out in a helpful journey guide to pick up on arrival. Specially commissioned poetry and prose by literary award-nominated writers, with a strong connection to each country, will be displayed alongside vibrant illustrations by artist Mark Boardman, in response to their words. Writers include Jini Reddy and Dara McAnulty, both shortlisted for the 2020 Wainwright Prize for nature writing, and Nina Mingya Powles, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best first collection of poetry. Conceptual artist Robert Montgomery will also create a signature billboard filled with an emotive statement to welcome visitors. See full details in Notes to Editors.
In addition, reflections of adventures and memories from RBG Kew staff who are native to or have moving accounts of working in these countries and regions will be included, enabling visitors to get to know Kew on a personal level.
Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said:
“In a year when many holidays and travel plans have had to change, Travel the World at Kew will offer visitors a chance to experience the next best thing, a journey around the world inside the safety of our walls. Visiting 10 special locations dotted throughout our 320-acre landscape is a perfect way to reconnect with nature after months of lockdown. Our global collections truly showcase the diversity of the earth’s flora, and I look forward to experiencing some of my favourite spots at Kew brought to life with words and imagery. I particularly recommend a visit to the wonderful Mediterranean Garden, and to the spectacular mountain gum (Eucalyptus dalrympleana) representing my home country Australia.”
Highlighted writers and locations
Visitors will be able to explore the Japanese Landscape, which includes the Garden of Peace - a tranquil area reminiscent of a traditional tea garden – and the intricately carved wooden panels of the Chokushi-Mon gate. Kew Gardens’ iconic Great Pagoda, standing tall among plant specimens collected in China’s Sichuan Province can be admired in the Chinese Grove, and visitors can delight in the Himalayan flora of the undulating Rhododendron Dell.
Visitors can read the beautiful words of Japanese-British-Chinese-American writer Rowan Hisayo Buchanan at the Japanese Gateway. Inspired by Noh theatre and traditional folktales, “Ground-Dwelling” explores a personified landscape, and the boundaries between plants, humans and the spiritual world.
The story of the planet’s most biodiverse continents told through trees - visitors can spot our majestic Canadian maple that steals the show in autumn; the imposing, ancient giants of the plant kingdom in the Californian Redwood Grove; and the weird and wonderful monkey puzzles from the time of the dinosaurs, found throughout Argentina.
Visitors will be transported over 12 thousand kilometers as Kew Scientist Laura Martinez-suz reflects on a past research project: “…The rivers in Argentina’s sub-Antarctic forests are the most radiant turquoise I’ve seen... Whenever we stop for a rest, we’re always offered the local tea, yerba mate… An energising drink that’s rich in antioxidants, the taste is bitter, but its symbolism is sweet, a gesture of friendship and community...”
For a trip closer to home, a stroll in Kew’s beautiful Mediterranean Garden is truly evocative of a Spanish holiday, with olive trees and the balmy fragrances of rosemary and lavender surrounding the Doric porticos of King William’s Temple. On the border where Kew Gardens meets the River Thames, the Natural Area will offer visitors a serene wander through Britain’s native woodlands. Tall grasses, wildflowers and whispering beech and hazel trees are home to precious wildlife including badgers, dormice, and woodpeckers.
Óscar Martín Centeno’s poem, “The dance of sunrise in the Mediterranean Garden”, paints a picture of a botanical dreamscape. Flowers sway in the light of the rising sun in this multisensory piece laden with imagery inspired by the exact spot in which visitors will find themselves while reading it.
Rest of World
For the long-haul, visitors can experience Australia without the 24-hour journey by getting up close with beautiful and scientifically fascinating eucalyptus trees. Nearby, visitors can walk through South African bergs and kloofs in our acre-sized Rock Garden, stippled with cascading waterfalls to mimic life in the world’s mountainous regions.
Reminiscing about a trip to Tasmania, RBG Kew, Wakehurst Horticulturist Jo Wenham shares with visitors a comical tale of unexpected guests: “…We awoke in our hut one morning to the visceral smell of wild animal as a wallaby rifled through our lunch bags. Before returning home, we saw the tiny fairy penguins (Eudyptula minor) of Bicheno Bay waddling off to sleep…”
The Big Flower Fight – Humpback whale sculpture
‘The Big Flower Fight’ comes to Kew Gardens in the form of a magnificent humpback whale, inviting visitors to explore the natural world as they travel the world at Kew. Humpback whales themselves are incredible travellers, roaming up to 18,000 km per year, journeying between their summer polar feeding grounds and tropical winter breeding grounds. The sculpture also celebrates the humpback whale as a global symbol of biodiversity conservation and the interconnection of all life on Earth.
Hitting our screens at the start of lockdown and proving an instant hit, ‘The Big Flower Fight’ is a Netflix Original Series that brings together plant-obsessed artisans from a range of creative disciplines, and challenges them to create spectacular, large-scale flower installations.
The winners of ‘The Big Flower Fight’ 2020, Andrew Whittle and Ryan Lanji, have claimed the honour of designing this living sculpture for Kew. Visitors will delight in the surprise of this beautiful, floral whale emerging from the Orangery lawn.
What we are doing to keep visitors safe
Anybody visiting Kew Gardens will be able to enjoy the 320-acre site safely through carefully implemented social distancing measures. Booking advance entry to the Gardens is essential.
We are adhering to government advice on coronavirus to ensure visitors and staff remain safe while enjoying their time at Kew. Ensuring all visitors pre-book timed entry slots to the Gardens is helping us to stagger the entry flow, avoid queues and reduce contact. Toilet facilities undergo strict cleaning throughout the day, and there are handwashing stations at each gate and key locations. Distance markers remain in place at potential crunch points throughout the Gardens, and we continue to operate cashless systems at our shop and catering pop-ups across the site.
A one-way system will be instigated in the glasshouses encouraging visitors to enter and exit via different, signposted doors which will be staffed to monitor attendance and flow.
For images and more information please contact the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The latest information and full details on safety measures put in place can be found on kew.org.
Please note, visitors, including Members, must pre-book timed entry slots online via the website kew.org. Any changes to this system will be communicated on our website and via our social media channels as well as in direct communications to Members.
Notes to Editors
About Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world-famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew Gardens’ 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden, attract over 2.5 million visits every year. Kew Gardens was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2019. Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew receives approximately one third of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support RBG Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.
Writers and poets’ biographies
Introduction to Travel the World at Kew — Robert Montgomery: An internationally recognised text artist and poet who lives in London. His work is hugely popular on the internet; the piece, “The People You Love Become Ghosts Inside of You” has been shared online more than 20 million times.
USA — Joe Cottonwood: By day, Joe has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. By night, he is the author of nine published novels, three books of poetry, and a memoir. He grew up in Maryland, and now lives in the coastal mountains of California where he built a house and raised a family under (and at the mercy of) giant redwood trees. From “because a redwood grove”: “because a redwood with its power/will never preach/makes no demands/sips from the clouds/swallows the sunlight…”
Spain — Óscar Martín Centeno: Born in Spain, Óscar writes about love, time and the natural world. From “The dance of sunrise in the Mediterranean Garden”: “In the fragrance of sunrise/The music liberates/Its long symphony of yellow stamens…”
Japan — Rowan Hisayo Buchanan: Rowan is a Japanese-British-Chinese-American writer. She is the author of two books, ‘Harmless Like You’ and ‘Starling Days’. From “Ground-Dwelling”: “In Noh theatre, the land is sometimes shown to be the robes of the spirits. Think of this—You stand on the coattails of gods.”
South Africa — Toni Giselle Stuart: A South African poet and performer, Toni listens for the forgotten and buried histories and ancestral stories of Black and Brown South Africans, and how these are woven through natural landscapes. She lives and works between the mountain and the sea in Cape Town. From “when the mountain calls”: “…there, where we lay our backs/on sandstone, the weak winter sun/soaks our skins warm…”
Canada — Jini Reddy: Jini was born in London to Indian parents who grew up in South Africa, and was raised in Montreal, Canada. Her most recent book, ‘Wanderland: A Search for Magic in the Landscape’ was shortlisted for this year’s Wainwright Prize, for UK Nature Writing. From “The Maple Tree”: “When I think of the maple tree, I feel something within me ignite, a lightning connection made.”
Australia — Tamryn Bennett and Lyndsay Urquhart. Tamryn is a poet named after trees. She grew up on Dharawal Country along the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Lyndsay is a truth seeker and Munkata Yuin woman who was nurtured in the Dharawal community. From “Bulu guunama – Shadow of a Snow Tree”: “Climb flickering light/into the canopy/where guwara whispers/to ears of feathered leaves…”
Argentina — Leo Boix: Born in Argentina, Leo explores topics of migration/exile, nature and Latin American myths and folklore. From “Thirteen Haikus on a Monkey Puzzle Tree”: “Coiled succulent pine/with saurian arms, bony plates/on reptilian back.”
China — Nina Mingya Powles: Nina is a poet, zine maker and nonfiction writer. She is half Malaysian-Chinese, was born in New Zealand, and grew up partly in China. From “Deep Autumn 深秋”: “In deep autumn, I searched for a memory/the size of a leafblade…”
Himalayas — Yuyutsu RD Sharma: Yuyutsu is a world-renowned Himalayan poet and translator. He has written several collections of poetry about the Himalayas, including ‘Annapurna Poems’, and ‘Nepal-Trilogy’. From “Rhododendron’s Suitor”: “an eternal lover/jilted by the sliver-barked/suitor of the steep cliffs,/the Nepalese alder …”
UK — Dara McAnulty - is a young naturalist, conservationist and author living in Northern Ireland. From “Re-inhabit”: “Spring colours in the understory invoke spell-speaking, strings that stretch from petals to fingers, wisdom passing. Back and forth.”