Words by Jessica Peace
Last year we stumbled into Kew’s hot houses and conservatories when it got a bit nippy; since then their Temperate House has reopened, so we went to have a gander at the new glass gaff we’ll be keeping warm in over winter…
OLD [BIG] VIC
Like the idea of swooning over white banisters, rosy cheeked and basking beneath massive palms and sausage trees? [Really, you’ll get it when you see it] Well, get yourself over to Kew’s Temperate House, the BIGGEST Victorian Glasshouse in the world - believe it mate.
First opened to Blighty’s public in 1863, this massive greenhouse was thought up and put into motion by plant hunter and hero Joseph Hooker [if your plant has ‘hookeriana’ in the title it’s named after this guy] and designed by architectural don and Regency lover Decimus Burton.
AND TEMPERATE MEANS?...
Slapped in between the Arctic Circle and the subtropics, the temperate regions of our lovely earth generally experience a milder climate. As the temperate zones experience less extreme weather, they are becoming over populated by us and trampled over by our growing need for food, shelter, infrastructure and industry; forcing some of these plants into decline as the space for them to grow diminishes.
Living happily in the Temperate House you’ll find rare, wild plants you could never have imagined cheek to cheek with plants that have become common - even annoying in Blighty (sorry buddleja mate). The Temperate House demonstrates the work that Kew, along with the Millenium Seed Bank and other conservation organisations around the world are doing to provide sanctuary and sustain plant life across the planet. Kew, we salute you.
IN THE TEMPERATE BOOTY
This big ol’ greenhouse is stuffed - elegantly, with rare, endangered and some just bloody weird and gorgeous plants; unfurling fronds, bulging blooms and trunks as big and thick as you like coming at you from every misted bed and banister. To get you in the mood, cop an eyeful of these beauties…
This well endowed citrus has lemons the size of grapefruits (literally) and is thought to be the lovechild of the two fruits. It impressed us anyway.
Beauty and beastly, look closer at the Solanum aculeatissimum and this sexy tomato plant with trickling ivory flowers also has MASSIVE spines sprouting from its leaves which you would not want to meet in a dark alley.
Protea cynaroides has the biggest head in its family; more creature than plant, its dried seedhead resembles a mystical bird’s nest. The national flower of South Africa, ‘King Protea’ got its name from the Greek god Proteus, the sea god that liked to throw a few shapes, due to its own many forms.
Leucadendron argenteum, branded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as ‘rare’ and ‘vulnerable’, is a sci-fi-esque hunk. Beery fact - in its Cape Town gaff it’s pollinated by beetles who just cannot get enough of the Silver Tree’s ‘beer’ fragranced flowers. Sup up.
The glass house protects some WILD heathers, unlike any on our bleak moors (lovely as they are), including the ‘Fire Heath’ and Erica verticillata. Thought to have kicked the earthly bucket, the rare E.verticillata was found in Protea Park, South Africa; the specimen here at Kew is only one of nine clones in the world.
GET YOUR ASS TO KEW
Succumbing to that festive feelin’? We are. If you’ve got time to trample about Kew over the winter then it only costs around a tenner this time of year. But if you’re lookin’ for a bit more of a spectacle then get to Christmas at Kew, Kew’s after-dark winter wonderland.