Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, by Pamela Holt

This month we welcomed back Pamela Holt, a judge at our Spring Show, to hear her insights into the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Pamela was a student at Kew in the 1970’s. She also went on several plant hunting trips for the gardens.

Pamela started by explaining the derivation of the name Kew – originally Cayo – which describes a dock (Cay or Quay) on a spur of land (Ho – like in Westward Ho!) on the River Thames in West London.  The Royal connection comes from its founder Princess Augusta, mother of George III.  And the Gardens (note the plural) comes from the fact that it is actually an amalgamation of several gardens.

The gardens have a number of distinctive ornamental structures which have been created over the years – for example the Pagoda which dates from 1762.  Other structures appear ornamental but have a more practical purpose – the Italian style campanile actually served as a chimney to take the soot away from the original coal fired boilers that heated one of the glasshouses.

The Gardens were passed from the Royal Family to the State in 1838, and the first Director, William Hooker, set out to develop the vision of George III to make a collection of plants from all across the Kingdom.  Not long later it also introduced training for horticulturalists and founded the Plant Science Laboratories that it is world famous for today.

Pamela told many amusing stories of Kew behind the scenes, and proudly showed us the silver medal she was awarded for coming second in the “Clog and Apron” students’ race along the Board Walk.

It was a really interesting evening and Pamela gave us lots of reasons to go and visit the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew very soon.