Kew Winter Visit

30 November 2023

On a bright November morning 13 of us and our three Kew volunteer guides (all MPG members), embarked on a fascinating day at Kew. Our first stop was the treasure trove of the Department of Economic Botany. The collection started at the time of Joseph Banks and contains every object one can imagine either manufactured from plant material or connected with the production or use of plants. Think everything from walking sticks to essential oils, poisons and a bicycle! We were captivated to see a Maori cloak made from the leather plant, Celmisia coriacea which would only have been worn by a Maori chieftain and would have been completely waterproof. We heard how a delegation from New Zealand had visited the collection to see the cloak (one of only three remaining) to study the craftmanship in order to be able to try and create a modern reproduction.

Wardian case

Celmisia cloak

Bowler hat made of Quercus suber

Following a quick stop for coffee and cake, we then walked through the gardens, Princess of Wales glasshouse and Temperate House.  As the sunlight dulled, the Kew light festival began to be revealed.

Dahlia imperialis, Temperate House

Theobroma cacao,
Princess of Wales Conservatory

Christmas lights

Our walk ended with our second special visit, the Arboretum Nursery, here our expert host was supervisor Sal (Sarah Demain).  Sal explained that the nursery propagated the majority of plants for Kew, with the exception of the alpines and orchids, she introduced the various methods of biological pest control (a constant challenge), and also the innovations in sustainability.  The whole organisation and scale of the nursery was most impressive.

Pest control, insect traps and Pingicula

Arboretum nursery

Finally, the group enjoyed a hospitable meal at the Coach and Horses on Kew Green.  With thanks to our Kew volunteer guides, Angela Fenhalls, Anne Rendell and Lynne Leveson and Kew host Justine Parker.

All profits from our Kew visit have been donated to Kew Gardens.

Text – Denise Pawlett
Photos – John Fielding and Denise Pawlett