Inspired to encourage children to develop a lasting relationship with plants and nature, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London is all set to open its giant new Children’s Garden to the public this weekend (18 May).
The new play space, located close to the existing White Peaks family café, was created by Kew's very own garden designers to give younger visitors a sense of adventure and exploration within natural surroundings.
"With the Children’s Garden we really hoped to design and create a unique space for children to play in, that would not only be fun and stimulate their imagination but also give them a different perspective on how the plants grow and why they are so important," said Suzie Jewell, Children’s Garden Designer at RBG Kew."
"Part of what makes this space so special is that we had existing trees on site around which to map the paths and play areas – it became a play area among the trees – something different in London. I hope that this will lead to a deeper connection with nature and a lifelong love of plants."
Based on the four elements required by plants to grow (earth, air, sun and water), the new children's trail ventures across a 10,000sq m (107,640sq ft) landscaped play zone via a tunnel of scented Star jasmine leading to an ancient Oak tree, surrounded by an aerial walkway four metres above ground.
The first zone – Earth Garden – features a giant sandpit with a play hut village surrounded by bamboo plants, tunnel slides and a totem pole, showcasing the germination process of an acorn.
Next comes the Air Garden, with winding paths, giant windmill flowers, colourful pollen spheres, hammocks, swings and trampolines, as well as a mini amphitheatre under huge Eucalyptus trees.
This leads on to the Sun Garden, featuring a large open space filled with sunflowers, cherry trees and pink candy floss grass, pergolas and a tunnel of hoops, where children can engage in a sensory adventure.
The trail winds up at the Water Garden, where visitors can control water flowing into a splash pool using water pumps, while water lily-shaped stepping stones encourage them to hop along streams, engaging them in the water cycle.
Sandra Botterell, director of Marketing and Commercial at RBG Kew, said: “The new Children’s Garden is a wonderful addition to the Kew landscape and will add real value to the family experience, giving young visitors the opportunity to see nature in a new way.
"Spaces like this are essential for children to grow and develop a relationship with plants, understand their importance, as well as to have fun."
On 20-21 July, Kew Gardens will also host its fourth annual Science Festival – a weekend of workshops, hands-on experiments, shows and behind-the-scenes tours – in marquees on the lawns, stretching from the Jodrell Laboratory to The Hive and Princess of Wales Conservatory.
At Cryo Corner, visitors will learn about Kew scientists' pioneering new techniques to conserve seeds, with a live demonstration of how cryopreservation works using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream.
Google’s 360-degree virtual reality goggles will enable visitors to experience being a Kew Scientist on a field trip by ‘virtually’ joining field missions to the Caribbean island of Montserrat and Norfolk Island in the South Pacific Ocean.
A Fungi Quest trail will also showcase wild and giant fungi to introduce visitors to the wonders and importance of Kingdom Fungi – an interactive installation from Kew’s outreach project, Grow Wild – while Gastronaut: The Wildest Food Show on Earth will explain plant biology via an explosive chemistry show of glow-in-the-dark drinks, vortex cannons and edible insects.
"By visiting Kew, you can visit lush rainforests, stroll along tree-lined vistas, and discover our year-round living collections of weird and wonderful plants – making it the perfect setting for a Science Festival," said professor Alexandre Antonelli, Kew’s director of Science.
"By bringing our science out into the Gardens, we hope to show visitors the extent of our extraordinary global work, why it matters, and how they can be a part of it. Above all, we want youngsters to have fun while understanding why plants and fungi matter and why their protection is crucial."For opportunites at Kew Gardens, see here.