After the winter gloom, new shoots and spring blooms are awakening at Kew Gardens in London.
The gardens are transformed into a bold and beautiful display of colour with magnolias, tulips, daffodils, summer snowflakes and trees bursting into flowers.
“Over the next couple of weeks, it’ll be like the grand finale of a firework display, so the magnolias, the cherries, you know, the rhododendrons, are all starting to move,” says Tony Kirkham, Head of Arboretum and Gardens.
“The magnolias are well on – all of them are out in flower now. And we have not any frost so they’re looking the best that I’ve seen them for probably ten years.”
The gardens remain open, despite the coronavirus pandemic,.
Other countries have enforced so-called ‘lock down’ conditions, banning all but essential travel outside the home.
If the UK government brings in similar regulations, staff at the gardens are confident they will be able to continue to tend to the plants here.
“If we have a lockdown and we are unable to travel to work we do have staff that live on site that are multi-tasking and flexible and will be able to to maintain the collections and keep them alive. So, you know, don’t worry about about the collections at Kew. We will keep them alive,” explains Kirkham.
In light of the outbreak, there have been some changes to the running of the botanical oasis – all of Kew’s tours have been cancelled and visitors are limited to certain areas to avoid close proximity with each other.
The areas closed off to the public include the glasshouses, galleries, indoor catering facilities and the children’s garden.
“We’ve closed our major public conservatory’s, our major catering outlets,” says Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture, Learning and Operations.
“We’ve, though, kept the gardens open because we believe that having currently a pleasant place for people to wander around actually is good for the public spirit. But it’s for a reduced range of attractions on site.”
There are toilets and hand-washing facilities across the gardens which undergo strict cleaning protocol at the end of each day.
“There’s a place for people to wash their hands, hands sanitising and so forth. But particularly also we’re 330 acres of a site. So in terms of social distancing, people can wander around, enjoy the site and not feel that they have to be too up close to other people,” says Barley.
To reduce the risk of transmission, indoor food and drinking outlets have been closed but some outdoor food and drink stands remain open. Cash will no longer be accepted by any of the outlets.
Visitors can bring their own food into the gardens and enjoy a picnic.
School visits are currently cancelled until 31 May 2020 at Kew Gardens, although schools in England will close to all but vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
In the event of a lockdown in the UK, Barley explains that plans are in place to help people continue to enjoy the gardens online.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities to to show the site digitally online for people who may be stuck in their homes or other places. So we’re really thinking creatively currently about ways to to try to brighten up people’s lives by at least bringing them the images of Kew, even if they are not physically able to be here.”
Kew Gardens was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2003.
The popular London tourist attraction draws over 2.1 million visitors annually.