Kew Gardens, Plantasia – a botanical lift for the urban senses

Every time I visit Kew Gardens I fall a little more in love with them (and for the record, it’s pretty often). Nestled in the beautiful borough of Richmond, the gardens are one of the reasons that I adore London so much. The unrivalled access we Londoners have to green spaces, even in the heart of the city, makes it rather special, and much less oppressive.

For these reasons when Sarah invited me to a press event at Kew Gardens to celebrate launching/unveiling their new Plantasia suite of attractions, I actually couldn’t say no. The Plantasia summer festival is a series of events, items and openings included within admission to Kew this year (though a coupe have extra charges) celebrating the varied curative properties that plants throughout the ages have been discovered to have.

We started explorations off by trying the botanical Gin & Tonics in their ‘Secluded Garden Glass House’ surrounded by stunning blooms. We sampled a couple each as we felt exhaustive testing was necessary. Each glass was a delight; made to order with care, we tried the gorgeous ‘calming’ Lavender, Passionflower & Rose (so good a second was ordered), the hypnotically ‘relaxing’ Camomile, Ciciely & Strawberry, and Elder, Mint and Basil.

Each of the ‘herbal tonics’ had a beautiful complexity of flavour to rival many that I’ve tried in top bars around London, but without so lush a backdrop. These aren’t included within the admission cost, but well worth a taste test on a warm weekend, even as a mocktail.

Then whisked to the Pagoda, closed for nearly 8 years, we summon our Dutch courage and deftly run to the top of the 160 foot tower. Well, everyone else does any way, I opted to take a more scenic route, pausing to admire the panoramic views a couple of times along the way. Stretching for miles, the views of London are gorgeous, from Wembley Stadium in the north west, to the Shard puncturing the eastern skyline of the City.

Luckily for us, a monsoon shower of epic proportions an hour before the event seemed to wash all of the bad weather away, leaving blue skies and cotton puff clouds a far as the eye could see.

The Pagoda overlooks the Healing Giant, a 20m raised planting bed showcasing medical plants and their uses through the ages to cure ills. Having grown up with a bathroom cupboard full of aromatherapy oils, Garlic & Honey drinks for colds and Aloe Vera plants for sunburn, it was really fun to see how many other everyday plants are commonly used. I’ve never understood any reason to not use natural help in additional to prescribed medicine, and chatting with Sarah, a Tennessee native, the cultural cross-over was fascinating.

As I hadn’t read the invite, the newly installed barefoot walk was a pleasant surprise, but alas, ever unprepared, I took the road less-sensory in my tights and flats along the flat path running along side. Luckily, the experience was enjoyed properly by Sarah & a couple of delighted kids racing through the variety of textures.

My beautiful foot model;

Nb: I’ve learnt when approaching bloggers in the wild, please approach with caution as they can startle easily. They can also get you back by taking photos when you’re puffed out at the top of pagodas…

Always a joy to wander through, the arcing Plantasia theme has introduced a bevy of these fun medicinally linked learning opportunities through the acres of Kew, in addition to the hundreds of normal sights to while away sunshine filled hours. If only school science had been as interesting…

Are you planning to visit Kew, in the borough of Richmond upon Thames and Surrey or your own local botanic gardens this summer?

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