A garden for all seasons – the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Wakehurst

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kew palm house in autumn

A garden for all seasons the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Wakehurst

While gardens in the bloom of spring or summer are difficult to match when it comes to vibrancy and colour, that doesn’t mean that some autumn and winter gardens don’t come very close. Expert winter planting at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Wakehurst has ensured they’re just as charming in the colder months of the year as they are during the spring and summer.

Founded as Royal Botanic Gardens in 1840 and 1965 respectively (though the history of the Wakehurst site itself goes back much further), Kew and Wakehurst are both important scientific centres for the study of botany as well as stunning gardens that are open to the public year-round. All that scientific knowledge has gone to good use, providing visitors with a chance to encounter fascinating plants, fantastic fungi and havens of biodiversity against an impressive historic backdrop. 

The immaculate borders, elegant glasshouses and inspiring trees of Kew and the meadowlands, ornamental gardens and woodlands at Wakehurst are simply begging to be explored. And now as part of your Boundless membership, you can enjoy free admission for one adult and up to five children; 50% off admission for one adult guest, plus a 10% discount in all Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew shops. So, to help you take advantage of this exceptional saving, we’ve gathered some of our favourite autumn, winter and year-round experiences you can find at Kew and Wakehurst that demonstrate how each represents a true garden for all seasons. Read on for our picks…


Kew – Introduction to the Gardens

kew palm house interior

Experience the history, work and highlights of the seasonal planting on this expert-guided tour introduction to the gardens. Taking place daily

Visiting a garden that’s home to one of the most varied and diverse collections of living plants in the world, can make it difficult to know where to begin. But fear not, this Introduction to the Gardens guided tour will ensure you know your begonias from your beech trees in no time. Learn about the science and conservation work currently taking place at Kew: from individual research projects to noteworthy international collaborations. The ideal prologue to a visit to the gardens at large, this tour will fully immerse you in the unrivalled plant collections, historic buildings and stunning landscapes that make Kew so special. 


Wakehurst – Horsebridge Wood

redwoods at horsebridge

A journey across North America taking in its vibrant and diverse habitats. Open year-round

The redwoods of Horsebridge Wood at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Wakehurst, must be seen to be believed, but that’s not all that’s on offer at this North American forest biome. The first section of Horsebridge is planted with flora you’d typically find on the east coast of the states, deciduous trees, including species like sweet gum tree and hickory. Venture further and you’ll encounter coniferous woodland, more typical of the Californian and Pacific coastal regions including the likes of hemlocks, Douglas firs and of course, awe-inspiring redwoods. A truly unique experience that will transport you across the Atlantic whatever the time of year, Horsebridge Wood is a must for anyone who’s visiting Wakehurst.


Kew – Elegant and Enchanting

japanese garden at kew

An art exhibition that encompasses the plant habitats and stunning flora of Thailand, China and Japan. 16 October 2021 to 27 March 2022

A fantastic collection of artworks by renowned Japanese botanical artists, hosted at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Elegant and Enchanting is an exhibition that you won’t want to miss. Curated personally by Dr Shirley Sherwood OBE, this exhibition explores the botanical highlights of Japan, China and Thailand through work by local artists from each region as well as more well-known featured contributors. Experience contemporary paintings by artists including Asuka Hishiki, Hideo Horikoshi, Mariko Ikeda, Mieko Ishikawa and Kimiyo Maruyama on your journey into the beautiful and elegant world of Asia’s gardens.


Kew – Orchid Festival

kew gardens orchid festival

Celebrate the rich diversity of Costa Rica’s flora at Kew Gardens’ annual orchid festival. 5 February to 6 March 2022

Taking you on a journey through one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, Central America, the Orchid Festival is a celebration of the natural world. Leading you on a winding route through the Princess of Wales Conservatory, the festival includes installations which highlight the animals and plants of Costa Rica. On your way you can spot local species such as monkeys, sea turtles and the quetzal bird as well as artwork by Costa Rican artist Dino Real. A world-class collaboration between Kew’s scientists and local experts from Costa Rica, the Orchid Festival is, quite simply, one of the best events the garden has to offer.


Wakehurst – Loder Valley Nature Reserve

A 150-acre reserve brimming with over 300 species of plant and a variety of local animal wildlife. Open year-round 

A tranquil haven that’s bursting with wildlife to be discovered (whatever the time of year) Loder Valley Nature Reserve is another hidden gem worth visiting at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Wakehurst. Encompassing a diverse mixture of different habitats including wetlands, meadows and Wealden woodland, visitors to Loder Valley can expect to see a variety of flora and fauna during their visit. Enjoy spotting the likes of dormice, wildflowers, the marsh tit and butterflies in the summer and starlings, robins, woodlarks, herons and ospreys in the winter. And with bird hides providing a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with birdlife, the twitchers among your party will be well served.


Kew – Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve

shirley sherwood gallery exterior

An exploration of the fragility of the natural world by award-winning artist Zadok Ben-David. 16 October 2021 to 27 March 2022

Also hosted at the renowned Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew Gardens this autumn is Zadok Ben-David: Natural Reserve, the first UK-based solo exhibition by the artist since 2008. Focusing on the themes of tragedy and hope in the face of the growing climate crisis, this exhibition explores the nuanced relationship between the natural world and man. Featuring a stunning, fully immersive installation, Blackfield, which consists of over 17,000 etched, hand-painted flowers, this exhibition is an attraction in its own right, complementing the gardens at Kew perfectly.


Wakehurst – Glow Wild 2021

glow wild at wakehurst

A spellbinding winter lantern trail for all ages. Selected evenings, Thursday 25 November 2021 – Sunday 2 January 2022

A magical experience for both grown-ups and little ones, the winter lantern trail at Wakehurst is back by popular demand for its eighth year this festive period. Best experienced after dark, this enchanting installation features luminous lanterns, dazzling 3D projections, peaceful soundscapes and glowing lit torches. And it’s not just the lantern trail that makes Wakehurst the a great Christmas destination this year, visitors can also experience the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree covered with over 1,800 lights as well as all your favourite festive food and drink offerings. 


Kew – Christmas at Kew

christmas lights at kew gardens

The most wonderful time of the year at Kew Gardens the winter trail lights up the evening skies for 2021. Wednesday 17 November 2021 – Sunday 9 January 2022

Easily rivalling the height of summer in terms of breadth and depth of colour, Christmas at Kew is a wonderful way to enjoy the festive season with the whole family. Comprising a variety of inspiring installations, your journey around Kew at Christmas won’t be one you’ll soon forget. Take in magical light tunnels, trees draped with vibrant and colourful fairy lights followed by the dancing flames of the fire garden and flickering reflections on the water. Round off your trip by taking in the spectacular panoramic Palm House light display and with a visit to Father Christmas if your little one is so inclined. 


Do more with Boundless

To access this membership benefit simply show your Boundless membership card and a form of photo ID on entry and you can enjoy free admission for one adult and up to five children; 50% off admission for one adult guest, plus a 10% discount in all Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew shops. Find out more here: boundless.co.uk/kew

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