The unexpected (but very much welcome) sunny weather in London last weekend had me truly wanting to soak up every beam of sunshine. I couldn’t have been happier to have clear blue skies and the regrettable coat choice weather well above the usual crisp degrees this time of the year. So obviously, we did what every Londoner does when the sun emerges from behind the clouds – pack up a picnic and invade the nearest park, or in our case, Kew Gardens (aka Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew).
Coincidentally, the annual Kew orchid festival was on, this time showcasing the world’s most biodiverse country and bursting with surprises in every corner. From February 9th to March 10th, wonderful colours fill the Princess of Wales Conservatory in celebration of Colombia’s remarkable biodiversity and vibrant culture, where orchids represent a key part of the ecosystems of this South American nation. Naturally, walking into the conservatory was arguably the easiest decision I had to make (especially when the entry is included in your pass!).
Eeeek. When I say walking, I may have meant waiting in line. After an hour long queue (totally worth it, but not so unusual during a sunny Saturday), the Princess of Wales Conservatory greeted us with thousands of orchids and the most beautiful curated route. It was every bit as magical as it sounds.
We soon found ourselves mesmerised by the elaborate arches of orchids, impressive hanging bamboo and stunning floating garden display depicting the legend of El Dorado, where a Muisca chief is said to have covered himself in gold dust before submerging in Lake Guatavita!
And of course, that’s without mentioning the detailed floral sculptures dotted around the conservatory. A condor in flight, a hanging sloth, a turtle, a dolphin spouting water, a jaguar and a handful of scarlet ibises made of orchids, among others, make you realise how incredibly talented the horticultural team in charge of the orchid festival display are. That’s of course not forgetting the dozens of facts about the fascinating world of orchids and Colombia’s remarkable biodiversity you learn throughout the display. There are even cacao trees and pineapples!
Truth is, this South American country is no stranger to stunning nature. Home to 4,270 species of orchids (1,543 of which are endemic), Colombia ranks as the country with the highest diversity of orchids and birds on the planet, and comes in second overall for plants, butterflies, amphibians and freshwater fish – only behind much larger Brazil, wow!
This enviable biological diversity lies in the variety of biogeographical areas, with a total of 314 types of ecosystems and six natural regions (Caribbean, Pacific, Andean, Orinoquía, Amazon and Insular). From Amazon rainforests, tropical coastal jungles and humid areas to deserts, deep valleys, high-altitude moorlands and even snowcapped peaks, Colombia is truly a heaven of ecological treasures.
Pretty magical, right? And when it comes to orchids, these densely diverse habitats are nothing but perfect. Orchids can adapt and grow in all kinds of climates and ecosystems, except the extreme snowy and desert conditions. The majority of them grow on trees and are endangered or threatened due to deforestation. Kew Gardens has been working closely with with local counterparts to help with the conservation of these beautiful plants, and the orchids festival’s spectacular display sure brings Colombia’s rich culture to life.
Kew Gardens Orchid Festival verdict
Kew’s orchids festival was like stepping into a world away from the bustling outside – vibrant, colourful and (despite the humidity in the air that comes with conservatories), unusually fresh! After eventually winding our way out, we were completely blown over by the hundreds of paper butterflies hanging from the glass ceiling. It felt like the perfect way to wrap up a pleasant Saturday morning. I honestly couldn’t recommend experiencing the orchid festival at Kew Gardens enough. If you’re looking for something different to do at the weekend in London, be sure to pop around before the orchid festival finishes.
Have you been to Kew Gardens or Kew’s orchid festival before? Where’s your favourite place to go when it’s sunny? If you loved our post, please leave us a comment and show us some love on social media using the buttons below
Kew Gardens | Richmond TW9 3AB https://www.kew.org/
Kew Gardens orchid festival runs 9th February-10th March 2019
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