At Kew Gardens, the home of the Royal Botanical Society, the annual Orchid Festival takes place in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, one of the more modern glasshouses.
The orchids are spread around the 10 different climate zones within the conservatory, and sit happily alongside everything from carnivorous plants to cacti.
Orchids from a single country are chosen each year, and the national theme spills over into the restaurants and other events at Kew, including music, dance and cookery demonstrations. This year, 2020, the orchids are from Indonesia, and the display also covers Indonesian wildlife and culture, as well as the work that Kew is doing in that country to help protect its biodiversity.
That all makes for a very busy time at Kew, and the festivals are always very popular. Flowers are the focus, though, and orchids repay time spent just looking at their extraordinary variety of colours, patterns and shapes. The Conservatory is large enough that, despite the popularity, it is always possible to get close to, and spend time looking at individual flowers.
Beyond the orchids, Kew Gardens is a very large site – allow lots of time for a visit.
Chiswick House holds a Camellia Festival each year. In west London, Chiswick House was once a home of the Dukes of Devonshire. It was the 6th Duke who began a collection of camellias in 1828, to be housed in his recently built conservatory. Camellias had been brought to England from China in the 19th century. The Duke and his gardener acquired their camellias from a nursery business in Vauxhall, in central London.
Today there are 33 different varieties in the collection at Chiswick, and some of the plants are thought to have been part of the Duke’s original collection. One is Middlemist’s Red, named after the London nurseryman who brought it to Britain from China in 1804. John Middlemist’s descendants gave it to the Duke, and now it is one of only two plants known in the world, the other being in New Zealand.
While you’re there, take the opportunity to walk around this very historic garden. It was here that architect-designer William Kent sowed the seeds of what was to become the eighteenth century English Landscape style of garden design