I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Paul Chibeba, the Travel Trade Sales and Marketing Manager at Kew Gardens, about the fantastic work and experiences they do at the site with the world’s largest collection of living plants, comprising of over 30,000 varieties. He was kind enough to complete this interview for us, and provide some exclusive pictures too. Here’s what he had to say…
1) Please explain your journey as ‘Kew Gardens’ so far.
I joined Kew Gardens a year ago after having spent almost ten years living and working in New York City. Kew is London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site – a world away from the bustle of city life!
I love welcoming people to Kew Gardens. Even on a busy day when we have over 20,000 visitors, it’s still very easy to lose yourself in the arboretum, woodland garden and conservation areas. The best part of my job is seeing visitors in complete awe when they see our giant water lily pads – some of the largest in the world. A giant lily pad (Victoria cruziana) can reputedly take the weight of a 10-year-old child! The extraordinary Waterlily House is not to be missed.
2) What has been the biggest or most memorable event you’ve provided?
The most spectacular event is our annual orchid festival in February (8 February through 9 March 2014) when the Princess of Wales Conservatory is filled with a sea of glorious tropical flowers. In fact, all of our glasshouses are just stunning in winter as they reach up to 27°C. My favourite is the Palm House as it’s like strolling through an exotic rainforest. Don’t forget to climb the spiral staircase and walk along the galleries overlooking magical palms and steamy interiors.
3) Is there any inside information you can give us?
We have a hop-on, hop-off Kew Explorer tour that winds its way around the entire Gardens. As Kew stretches almost a mile from one side to the other, I’d definitely recommend taking the Kew Explorer as it’s a neat way to see everything and get everywhere. The driver gives a live commentary (featuring lots of fun facts and a few corny jokes) so it’s also a great introduction to the world’s most famous garden.
4) Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to tell us about?
For the first time, this year everyone can visit Kew Palace and the Royal Kitchens at no extra charge. For me, Kew Palace is an absolute gem… It was the summer residence of King George III, Queen Charlotte and their 15 children, and is set within Kew Gardens. Kew Palace is Britain’s most intimate royal palace and offers a glimpse into Georgian royal life. It was King George III’s mother, Princess Augusta of Wales, who founded Kew Gardens over 250 years ago, so you’ll stumble across interesting Georgian relics throughout the gardens including the Pagoda, Orangery, Ruined Arch and Temple of Aeolus. You’ll also find Queen Charlotte’s Cottage nestling in the Conservation Area. With such significant Georgian heritage, we look forward to welcoming future royal Georges to Kew!