Kew Gardens

officially Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Botanic garden located at Kew, site of a former royal estate in the London borough of Richmond upon Thames. In 1759 Augusta, dowager princess of Wales and mother of George III, laid out a portion of her estate as a botanic garden. It became an eminent scientific institution under the unofficial directorship of Joseph Banks. In 1840 the gardens were donated to the nation. Under Sir William Jackson Hooker (1785–1865), they became the world's leading botanical institution. Today they are home to 50,000 different types of plants, a herbarium of more than 5 million dried specimens, and a library of more than 130,000 volumes. The three museums at Kew are devoted largely to economic plant products and a laboratory of plant genetics and classification.

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Gardens in an inner-city suburb of Cape Town located just to the south of the city centre located in the higher elevations of the "City Bowl". It is located directly beneath Table Mountain and Lion's Head. It is an affluent neighbourhood populated mostly by young professionals and contains numerous chic restaurants, hotels, boutique shops and loft apartments. The suburb is also a hub for the Cape Town creative industry, hosting the home of at Longkloof Studios and contains many modeling agencies, production and publishing companies and associated industries. It is also home to the world-famous five-star Mount Nelson Hotel.


In the early years, the Cape was used as an anchorage for British, Portuguese and Dutch ships. No permanent settlement existed until the Dutch East India Company issued a mandate to Jan van Riebeeck, a ship's surgeon, to establish a settlement which could provide passing ships with fruit, vegetables and fresh meat (traded from the natives).

In 1652 the first garden was laid out by Hendrik Boom, the Company's master gardener, on a site close to the Fresh River (near to the Grand Parade). Later that year, the garden crossed the Fresh River (where Adderley Street is today), and included a medicine garden. Within a few years it was 18 hectares in size.

As more produce became available from the Company's gardens at Newlands and from the Free Burghers who had settled along the Liesbeeck River, the town garden was slowly converted into a botanical and ornamental garden, although the growing of vegetables did continue for a number of years.

The famous kilometer-long Government Avenue, which runs from the top of Adderley Street, was originally planted with lemon trees and in 1700 with orange trees. During the time of Simon van der Stel, it was lined with oak trees, which remain today.

Places of Interest

The first statue erected in South Africa, that of Sir George Grey can be found in front of the Public Library. The South African Museum, the oldest in the country, was established in 1825. The small Jewish museum, housed in the original synagogue, known as 'The Gardens Shul', is the oldest in Southern Africa built in 1862. The twin-towered 'new' synagogue was built in 1905. At the top end of Government Avenue is Cape Town High School, built on the grounds of which once stood the Hope Mill, one of five water mills which operated along the banks of the Fresh River.

Also within the Gardens area can be found the National Art Gallery, the Michaelis School of Fine Art, the Garden for the Blind (where all the fragrant flowers have been marked with a Braille plaque), the aviary, a hothouse and a tearoom.

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