The 23rd annual Orchids Festival at Kew Gardens has kicked off and it has transformed southwest London into a tropical paradise.For those of us who can’t really afford a holiday right now, this stunning display will treat you to taste of Thailand’s vibrant plant life, culture and even food. It runs until Sunday 11th March and entrance tickets are a pretty reasonable £16 per adult for the whole of Kew when booked online (although I highly recommend you pack your own snacks because food prices are hella expensive). If you really want to splash out, you may be able to get tickets to the Orchids Festival: After Hours with live performances, botanical cocktails and Thai massages!
My mum absolutely loves orchids and, along with my aunts, photos of orchids are frequently sent to our group chat to claim bragging rights and earn the coveted title of Supreme Orchid Queen.
We entered Kew Gardens and I was in my element, ready to go full Tree Hugger and turn into my spiritual animal; The Koala.
My mum quite literally squealed with delight when she found out where we were going and it did not disappoint. I’m not by any means an orchid expert and it’s safe to say I like the idea of gardening more than the actual task itself. In fact my favourite flower is the humble Snowdrop, which is in fact a weed. While you might not find these inside the greenhouses, they are scattered around the gardens and while most people were inside ooh-ing and aah-ing over orchids, I was outside having a photo shoot and losing my mind over Snowdrops.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the festival so much I may actually invest in a few orchids and compete with my aunts. The displays are so impressive and clearly a lot of time has been put into creating this. We spent around 2 hours in the greenhouse and there’s so much to see that we could’ve spent longer. You can find a floating mini replica of the Bang Pa In Palace which is visually stunning, along with giant floral columns and arches.There’s also an original Thai cart on loan from the Thai Embassy. I cannot recommend visiting the Orchids Festival enough. It helps that the greenhouses are kept at a nice warm temperature (albeit slightly humid) and are ideal if you want shelter from the biting cold winter winder.
There is so much more to look at than just orchids. If you’re lucky you might spot a few reptiles hanging about and there are even some fish (including a piranha!!!). We has just enough time to visit the Treetop Walkway which stands 18 meters high just above the treetops. It feels slightly unstable and sways a lot in the wind which definitely made us question our own safety. “It’s an engineering masterpiece!” my sister assured us excitedly as she tried to educate us on why the structure wouldn’t collapse and kill us all. You may not want to go up there on a windy day if you have a weak stomach, but the view is worth it.
If you’re like me, the highlight of any trip is food and the Thai Street Food stall next to the Princess of Wales Conservatory sells mouth wateringly delicious Thai food. But be warned; the queues are usually pretty long and it’s a bit pricey (although a much better option than buying food from the cafe’s at Kew which are overpriced and definitely not as yum).
Whether you’re passionate about orchids, a keen photographer and quite like plants or simply looking for an Insta-worthy background, the Orchid Festival is a drop of vibrant warmth in the heart of cold grey London and definitely worth a visit.