Britain’s famous Kew Gardens Saturday reopened its spectacular Temperate House, the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse after completing the largest restoration project in its entire history, costing more than 55 million U.S. dollars.
Reopening the doors of the vast glasshouse revealed 10,000 breath-taking plants, making the magnificent structure a true jewel in Kew’s crown, described as an architectural wonder and a haven for horticulturists.
The Victorian glasshouse, first opened in 1863, will be home to some of the world’s rarest and most threatened plants.
The Temperate House tells the stories of the plants that Kew has rescued, and the journeys they have taken to reach the sanctuary of their new home.
Famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough spoke of his delight with the restoration, saying: “It is a breathtakingly beautiful space. These plants are wonderful and here they are safe from peril.”
“Kew does all sorts of things that nowhere else does. If you want to identify something, this is the ultimate authority worldwide,” Attenborough added. “It’s the most important botanical institute in the world. Kew occupies a very special place in the science of botany.”
Entering the glasshouse, visitors embark on a round-the-world adventure. They might find themselves in South Africa, where they will see the cycad Encephalartos woodii, the famous “loneliest tree in the world”. Its Jurassic appearance helped it withstand the nibbles of prehistoric predators, but now only male specimens exist and the quest for a female has been unsuccessful.
Richard Barley, director of horticulture at Kew, said: “This is world-class horticulture, science and design working together to create something truly impressive. The Temperate House is a glistening cathedral where the new glass allows the sun to stream in and the ironwork has been restored to its glossy best.”
“I’m most excited that it is for everyone, from young to old, for budding gardeners or aspiring artists, for those making a pilgrimage from great distances, and for our local community, we hope every visitor will see plants in a new light.”
Ros Kerslake, CEO of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which partly funded the project, said: “This extraordinary glass structure has always epitomized all that is wonderful about these gardens – it is a magical place with a massive heart, which makes a huge contribution to biodiversity and natural heritage.”
The vast restoration project has taken five years and involved erecting enough scaffolding bars to stretch the entire length of the M25 London orbital motorway.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is a world famous scientific organization, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development.
As a major international and a top London visitor attraction, Kew with 132 hectares of landscaped gardens and country estate attracts over 2.1 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009.