3 June 2021

Visit the spots at Kew as seen on TV

Discover the botanical delights at our gardens as seen on the Channel 5 documentary series Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom.

By Katie Avis-Riordan

Two women sit on a bench and looking up in admiration at the Palm House display

The fascinating four-part documentary series Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom showcases the beautiful landscapes, extraordinary plants and dedicated staff in our gardens at Kew and Wakehurst.

Each of the hour-long episodes takes you behind the scenes of our world-leading horticulture and science, spanning the four seasons from winter to autumn.

Now’s your chance to follow in the footsteps of the Channel 5 documentary and visit the spots as seen on TV.

Our glasshouses

On your visit to Kew Gardens, you won’t want to miss taking in the botanical and architectural splendour of our glasshouses.

Step inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the home of our annual winter orchid festival, as seen in the first episode of the series.

When this spectacular glasshouse isn’t hosting Orchids, you can explore the 10 different climatic zones and see a huge variety of plants, from cacti to carnivorous plants to bromeliads.

Visit the Palm House to witness the pink banana, palms and other tropical plants as seen on TV.

Download a map of Kew Gardens to guide your exploration

Discover the Temperate House, the territory of Conservatories Manager Scott Taylor, and its 10,000 plants, including old, rare and endangered specimens.

Can you find Ensete ventricosum or the false banana? As our scientist Dr James Borrell explains in the documentary, this important plant provides the staple food for 20 million people in Ethiopia.

Just 15 enset plants can feed one person for a whole year, leading to its nickname, the ‘tree against hunger’.

Our Botanical Horticulturist Solène Dequiret reveals a behind-the-scenes look at our Waterlily House where the waterlilies are grown from scratch each year.

The lily pads can grow to around two metres wide in summer. To catch the night-time bloom of the waterlilies, it sometimes calls for a private midnight showing for our horticulturists.

Horticulturalist in waders in the pond amongst the giant waterlilies in Kew's Waterlily House
Horticulturalist Solene in Kew's Waterlily House © RBG Kew

The Arboretum

Our Arboretum at Kew looks stunning throughout the year and changes with the seasons.

The trees display a stark beauty in winter, unfurling leaves and blossom in spring, lush green foliage in summer and a spectrum of fiery shades in autumn.

Cherry Walk is a top spot in spring and, as our Head of the Arboretum Tony Kirkham says, ‘the bling of horticulture’.

If you’ve seen the documentary, you’ll be familiar with the Tree Gang and their adventures. This group of expert arboriculturists care for, protect and maintain our trees.

Wander around the Gardens and see if you can spot any of the trees the gang climbed up, such as the majestic London plane tree near the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Tree gang in action at Kew
Tree gang in action at Kew © RBG Kew

Explore further afield in Redwood Grove, the place where our coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) grow.

This is where you will find the tallest tree in the whole of Kew Gardens – a 40-metre-tall coastal redwood.

Nearby in the Pinetum, keep your eyes peeled for one of Tony Kirkham’s favourite trees, his ‘baby’, a plum yew.

He collected the seeds of the tree on a collecting expedition in Taiwan in 1992. The only problem was they were found in a pile of monkey poo.

That wasn’t enough to put off our intrepid experts though, and they brought the seeds back to our Arboretum Nursery for germination.

There is one tree in our Gardens that is a bit of a pioneer, the 200-year-old Turner’s oak.

During the Great Storm of 1987, Kew lost 700 trees and partially uprooted this oak. Before the bad weather, the tree was ailing and showing signs of ill health. But after being uprooted, rather than die, it flourished.

Nature had decompacted the soil, allowing oxygen and water to travel more freely to the tree’s roots.

Learning from this natural disaster, Kew became forerunners in injecting soil around tree roots with air and revolutionised tree care around the world.

The Arboretum at Kew
The Arboretum © RBG Kew

Rock Garden

In the Channel 5 series, Rock Garden Supervisor Thomas Freeth shows off our alpine plant collection.

Our Rock Garden is home to alpine plants from mountainous and rocky regions of the world, from the European Alps to windswept Patagonia.

Around 70% of the plants here are grown from seeds collected by our scientists in the wild.

Stroll through the Alpine House to see some hardy yet beautiful flowers in bloom.  

Alpine plants in the Rock Garden
Alpine plants in the Rock Garden, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew
Alpine plants in the Rock Garden
Alpine plants in the Rock Garden, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew

Wakehurst

Our wild botanic garden in Sussex, Wakehurst, is where science and horticulture come together in a wild and undulating landscape.

During the series, you will have virtually visited the American Prairie, a six-acre designed conservation landscape that is evolving week by week.

You will have also seen our incredible Millennium Seed Bank which stores 2.4 billion seeds from across the world as an insurance policy for the future.

To keep the seeds safe and secure, the bank has a vault door and 24-7 security. The underground vaults are also flood, bomb and radiation-proof. See our scientists at work from the Millennium Seed Bank’s glass atrium.

Check out Bloomers Valley where Wakehurst Conservation Supervisor Steven Robinson uses the brush harvester.

And who can forget the adorable herd of Hebridean sheep running through the Loder Valley Nature Reserve?

The sheep graze Wakehurst’s meadows throughout the autumn and winter months.

Download a handy map of Wakehurst to help guide you

Kitchen Garden

Want to visit the Kitchen Garden at Kew where Botanical Horticulturist Hélèna Dove grows tasty produce?

From plump tomatoes to giant pumpkins, lots of fruit and vegetables are grown here.

The Kitchen Garden is involved in many Kew Science studies, such as the Crop Wild Relatives project which looks at wild relatives of our favourite crops for genetic traits that could protect our food from threats such as drought, disease and climate change.

One example is oca, an alternative to the potato.

Some of the Kitchen Garden produce ends up on the menu in our restaurants, including our Pavilion Bar and Grill. As seen in the documentary, chard is an ingredient in delicious meals rustled up by our chef.

Oca
Oca, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew
Oca
Oca, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew

Behind the scenes

The show sometimes goes behind the scenes to places not accessible to the public, like the Tropical Nursery and the Arboretum Nursery.

But we can take you there virtually. 

Escape to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst from your sofa with Virtual Kew where you can find virtual tours, sneak peeks and many more behind-the-scenes gems.

Visit Virtual Kew

Behind the scenes Channel 5 at Kew

Watch Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom

Take a look at the four-part documentary series about life at Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, throughout 2020.

Read & watch