This month, after five years and $57 million worth of patching, polishing, and painstaking renovation, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, will reopen its Temperate House, the largest Victorian greenhouse in the world.
The dazzling iron and glass botanical wonderland has been educating and delighting London visitors since it first opened on the banks of the Thames in 1863, and now it’s better than ever, having been refreshed with 15,000 new panes of glass, 1,395 gallons of paint, and 10,000 plants, representing some 1,500 species from around the globe.
Both a scientific treasure trove and an architectural marvel, the 628-foot-long glass house provides a sanctuary for some of the world’s rarest and most endangered specimens, which Kew’s intrepid botanists have rescued and nurtured.
“We hope every visitor will see plants in a new light,” says Richard Barley, the director of horticulture. “And what a light it will be: When our first visitors swing open the doors, they will find these plants encased in a glistening cathedral, the new glass allowing the sun to stream in, the ironwork restored to its glossy best.”