The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, is situated on the banks of the River Thames between Richmond and Kew in south-west London. The Gardens comprise comprise 132 hectares, most of which is intensely managed, and includes a very extensive arboretum, water features, herbaceous bedding, some of the world's largest and most famous botanical glasshouses, and many historic buildings.

The Gardens are "royal" because for many years before Kew became a national botanical institute kings and other members of the royal family either lived on or owned the land and buildings at the present site. The plural form, "gardens", is correctly used because two separate parts of the royalty owned adjacent plots of land - the Richmond Estate and the Kew Estate - which were combined into a single area around 200 years ago.

In the 1720s George II and Queen Caroline lived at Ormonde Lodge on the Richmond estate next to the river. In the early 1730s their son Frederick, Prince of Wales, leased the neighboring Kew estate, which extended from Kew Green to the present southern boundary of the Gardens near the Pagoda. Prince Frederick died in 1751, and in 1759 Augusta, his widow, founded a botanic garden of about 3.5 hectares (9 acres) on the land south of the Orangery, with advice from her head gardener, William Aiton, and her botanical adviser, Lord Bute. The architect Sir William Chambers designed a number of buildings for the garden and surrounding grounds: those still standing include the Orangery, Pagoda and Ruined Arch.

George III, son of Frederick and Augusta, inherited the Richmond Estate in 1760 when his grandfather died. In 1766 Lancelot "Capability" Brown began to redesign the Richmond Gardens for the King and Queen Charlotte, notably using the device known as a ha-ha to mark boundary lines without marring the view. George III took over the Kew Estate in 1772, when his mother died. Sir Joseph Banks became unofficial director and the subsequent fame of the botanic gardens is largely due to him. Under his direction collectors went all over the world in search of plants of economic, scientific or horticultural interest.

With the deaths of both George III and Sir Joseph Banks in 1820, the botanic gardens fell into decline and in 1840, they were handed over to the State. Soon after, the Royal family donated additional areas of surrounding land - thereby extending the size of the Gardens to 81 hectares. The following year, Sir William Hooker was appointed as the first official director. He established the Museums and Department of Economic Botany in 1847 and the Herbarium and Library in 1852. The Palm House was finished in 1848 and in 1860 construction began on the Temperate House, both designed by Decimus Burton.

Sir William's son and successor, Sir Joseph Hooker, oversaw the founding of the Jodrell Laboratory in 1876. In 1882, the Marianne North Gallery was donated to the Gardens and in 1897 Queen Charlotte's Cottage and its grounds were given by Queen Victoria, to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.

In 1904, Cambridge Cottage and its garden, now the home of the Kew Gardens Gallery, were presented by Edward VII on the death of the last Duke of Cambridge, and the Gardens reached their present size of 120 hectares (about 300 acres).

Among the buildings constructed during the latter half of the last century are the Evolution House (opened in 1952), Princess of Wales Conservatory (opened in 1987), Sir Joseph Banks Building (opened in 1990), and the Victoria Gate Visitor Centre (opened in 1992).

Famous plants people associated with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew include: Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Joseph Hooker, Allan Cunningham, Augustine Henry, Sir William Jackson Hooker, Francis Masson, William Andrews Nesfield,

Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
Surrey TW9 3AB

I've been to Kew three times over the years. I suspect that it was even more magnificent before "The Great Storm" in 1987 that blew over many ancient trees. Now, my favorite areas are the rock garden and the conservatory. Things are pretty well labeled and there is a lot to see but this garden is not as spectacular as say, Wisley or Sissinghurst. At least that is my humble opinion (IMHO for you techies.)

Some of the plants named in honor of Kew include Buddleja colvilei ‘Kewensis’, Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Kew Blue’, Cytisus x kewensis, Euonymus fortunei ‘Kewensis’, Iris chrysographes ‘Kew Blak’, Lavatera x clementii ‘Kew Rose’, Skimmia x confuse ‘Kew Green’ and Sorbus x kewensis.

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