Princess of Wales Conservatory

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

This month’s award winning building is certainly hidden away, for not only do you have to pay an entrance fee to be allowed into the grounds, but the building is itself semi-submerged.

[T]he Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew is the world’s most advanced, energy-conscious public conservatory, with a computer-controlled environmental system giving 10 different tropical and sub-tropical habitats.

The award-winning conservatory was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales, but takes its name from Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales (1719–1772), the widow of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who among others laid the foundations of the Kew Gardens we know today.

As the last vestiges of winter linger a visit to a garden might not have been the wisest decision for a day out recently, but this is not a ‘normal’ garden – it is Kew. The only downside, unimaginable in the 18th century, is that it is on the Heathrow flight path, the planes so low they already have their wheels lowered.

This time every year Kew has its orchid display at The Princess of Wales Conservatory, its climatic zones ranging from dry tropics with the towering spikes of echiums running through the full range of the world’s climates to the wet tropics with mangroves, an area breeding water dragons used to keep unwanted insects at bay, and a jade vine with each stem over 3ft long displaying more than 90 flowers which are naturally pollinated by bats.

Dragon

Once a rare sight, orchids now proliferate in almost every garden centre. The displays here are unlike anything seen in a florist. Flying bees and butterflies made from orchids. Archways and islands surrounded with water are used to display a species which many believe is the most diverse in the world, more than 4,500 orchids are used. While below ground ultraviolet light reveals the hidden pattern on these exotic flowers used to attract insects for pollination.

Alluring Orchids, Kew Gardens until 8 March open 9.30 – 5.30.
Princess of Wales Conservatory open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

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