23 November 2018

What happens to Kew Gardens in winter

During the cold season at Kew, the garden staff are busier than ever, but what horticultural work needs to be done? Seasonal Displays Horticulturist, Nick Woods, explains.

Winter is a time for the natural world to slumber. Bare trees are silhouetted against a wintery sky, colourful blooms fade and wildlife goes into hibernation.

But the pace for Kew’s gardeners doesn’t slow down one bit.

People presume at this time of year the work load eases up. But it’s quite the opposite.

There are many important jobs that need to be carried out during the cold season by Kew’s team of horticulturists, including:

  • The rotation of organic matter into the soil to raise nutrient levels.
  • Tender plants are drawn back into the nurseries to protect them from incoming frosts.
  • Leaves are frantically blown from pathways back under the trees where they can decay and return nutrients back into the soil for the next leafy generation.

One useful guide for all our winter gardeners is to always have a good pair of waterproofs and a few extra layers of clothing to hand.

Berries growing in the Arboretum
Berries growing in the Arboretum, Ellen McHale (RBG Kew)
Nick Woods tending to Woodland Pot Display at Victoria Gate
Nick Woods tending to Woodland Pot Display at Victoria Gate

Time for hibernation

Due to the lowering temperatures, the majority of plant life at Kew has already started to prepare for winter.

Deciduous trees have shed their leaves to reveal their great natural architecture. 

Geophytes (plants that have an underground storage organ, such as tulips) have returned energy back into their bulbs.

Tubers and bulbs are ready for next year’s growing period.

In general, most outdoor plants slow down to reserve their energy through winter.

Botanical winter highlights at Kew

Even in the cold winter period, there are many exceptional and beautiful things to see at Kew Gardens. Here are some of the top botanical picks to look out for...