One of the jewels in the UK’s gardening crown has been unveiled after a huge restoration project – Kew Garden’s Temperate House.
The world’s largest Victorian glasshouse, which opened in 1863, is home to 10,000 plants from temperate climate zones, including some of the world’s most threatened species.
It will reopen to the public on Saturday, May 5. About 400 staff and contractors worked on the project, taking 1,731 days to complete it.
Described by Sir David Attenborough as a “breathtakingly beautiful space”, the glasshouse has undergone the largest restoration project ever undertaken by the Royal Botanic Gardens since the glasshouse closed in August 2013.
The entire framework has been repaired, with 15,000 of panes of glass replaced, along with intricate ironwork and paved flooring.
Some 69,000 individual elements were removed and cleaned, repaired or replaced, including 116 urns, which had to be lifted by crane off the building. About 110 miles of scaffolding was used and 5,280 litres of paint.
Specimens in the glasshouse include the “loneliest tree in the world”, the cycad Encephalartos woodii from South Africa, and the Dombeya mauritiana tree thought to be extinct in the wild until one was found growing in the highlands of Mauritius.
Nearly £15 million from the National Lottery made the restoration possible, as well as contributions from the Environment Department (Defra) and corporate and private donors – a total cost of £41 million.
Kew Gardens director of horticulture Richard Barley said: “It’s been amazing watching this project unfold, the building emerges gloriously and some of the world’s rarest plants safely reach their home.
“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.”
Getting there: By tube, Kew Gardens station (500m to Victoria Gate); by train, Kew Bridge station (800m to Elizabeth Gate); bus 65 stops at Victoria and Lion Gate; bike racks are available at all gates.
Online ticket prices: (until October 31, 2018) Adults £17.75*/ £16; children (four–16) £4; children under four free; concessions £15.50*/£14. * Includes a voluntary donation