1 Last week, Ryan had the opportunity to visit Kew Gardens. Just 30-minutes outside London, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, boasts one of the world's largest collections of rare and living plants.
2 Kew's Palm House is among the most important Victorian glasshouse structures in the world. It was designed by Decimus Burton to accommodate exotic palms arriving in Europe during the Victorian era.
3 The structure was built from iron and curved glass, with the use of a deck beam.
4 The construction was pioneering - it was the first time engineers used wrought iron to span such large widths without the use of support columns. It was a technique borrowed from shipbuilding, and from a distance, the glasshouse resembles an upturned hull.
5 The Palm House is 363-feet long by 100-feet wide, and rises to a height of 66-feet. Amazingly, it also contains 16-thousand panes of glass.
6 The tallest palms that need the most room in the glasshouse are the peach palm, Bactris gasipaes; babassu, Attalea speciosa; queen palm, Syagrus romanzoffiana; and the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera.
7 The North Wing of the Palm House displays plants from Asia, Australasia, a region including Australia, New Zealand and the island of New Guinea and neighboring islands of the Pacific.
8 This is an Ecephalartos altensteinii - a palm-like cycad. It is commonly known as breadtree, broadloom, and eastern Cape giant cycad. This specimen is one of the oldest potted plants in the world. It was retrieved in South Africa in the early 1770s and brought back to England in 1775 by Francis Masson, one of Kew's earliest plant collectors.
9 This palm-like tree is actually not related to the palm-tree at all. It is called Pandanus vandermeeschii. The trunk is stout, wide branching, and ringed with numerous leaf scars. It also has many thick roots near the base, which provide support as the tree grows top heavy with leaves, fruit and branches.
10 Pandanus are dioecious, which means they have male and female flowers produced on different plants. Some species have thick prop roots near the base, which emerge from the stem to keep them upright and secure.
11 Look at all those bananas! Do you know... although they grow as high as trees, bananas, or Musa, are technically giant herbs? The plants are not woody, and their "stem" is made up of the bases of huge leaf stalks. The fruits are high in energy, low in fat, packed with vitamins, and one of the most popular fruits in the world.
12 This is called Tabernaemontana divaricata, more commonly known as Pinwheel Flower, Crape Jasmine, and Nero's Crown. It is an evergreen shrub that grows up to six feet and is dichotomously-branched. The bitter roots are used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for scabies.
13 Amorphophallus konjac has long been used in China, Japan and southeast Asia as a food source and as a traditional medicine in treatments such as detoxification, and cough suppression.
14 Just behind the Palm House was the Rose Garden. The Kew began replanting the historic garden to celebrate its 250th anniversary. The plan was to replant it in the same way it was in 1848 when the Palm House was constructed.
15 Once restoration on the Rose Garden is finished, it will encircle three sides of the Palm House, and an area celebrating the history of the rose. This garden is a long term project that is expected to take up to three years to become fully established.
16 At the time of Ryan's visit, the Rose Garden was filled with a palette of pinks, and whites. The Rose Garden was planted in 1923, with about six-thousand roses in 113 beds.
17 The dome-shaped boxwood adds a nice touch to the Rose Garden.
18 The next stop was the Waterlily House. Located opposite the northern entrance of the Palm House, this smaller, square glazed glasshouse, contains a pond spanning 36-feet. It was built in 1852 specifically to feature giant waterlilies.
19 Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid' is a hardy lily. It withstands wind and cooler water temperatures better than others. Its yellowish-green lily pads can spread from 12 to 40-inches. Its flowers are white and then rose-pink to purplish in color.
20 This is a tropical day-blooming waterlily called Nymphaea 'Foxfire'. The outer purple surrounding the inner pink shade of the flower is a striking combination. Together with the deep mottling of the lily pads, make this a sought after plant.
21 Santa Cruz waterlilies produce one flower at a time, only lasting two days. A 10-inch diameter flower arises from the underwater bud as a white bloom that turns to deep pink the second day.
22 The Kew Gardens uses fish and regular food dye to color the water black, which helps to prevent the growth of algae.
23 This is Gunnera manicata - it's hard to miss the huge leaves of this water-loving plant. It can grow to more than three-feet across. In its native Chile, people often use the leaves as umbrellas. Ryan said he stood next to it, and the tallest leaves were taller than him at five-foot-10.
24 This rose pergola was built in 1959. It was planted with pairs of climbing and rambling roses, chosen for their profusion of color and their length of bloom. When the roses reach their peak, this pergola becomes a tunnel of color and fragrance.
25 An India Blue Peacock - these stunning birds can weigh up to 13-pounds when full grown. It is only males that have the long, lustrous coverts that make up 60-percent of the peacock's body length.
26 With the tail feathers, peacocks can reach about seven-feet long. And, surprisingly, they can still fly. Peafowl are among the largest flying birds in the world.
27 Here's a patch of California poppy, Eschscholzia californica. Native to the United States and Mexico, this cheery orange bloom is also the official state flower of California.
28 The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky textured, with four petals, each about two to six centimeters long and wide, which close at night or in cold, windy weather.
29 Kew Gardens also features "Kew on A Plate". This garden was created on a site once used to grow produce for English royalty, specifically the households of Princess Augusta and George III.
30 The vegetables and fruits are selected for their flavors and ripening schedules, so there is available produce through the seasons.
31 The garden includes a large selection of heritage fruits and vegetables.
32 These tomato plants, 'Orange Banana', are neatly staked and well tended - the edging around the beds is quite impressive.
33 The Garden covers their cabbage plants with fine black plastic netting to protect them from hungry critters and insects.
34 Kew Gardens also showcases a rock garden built in 1882. It was inspired by a donation of about three thousand alpine plants - one of the largest collections in the country at that time.
35 The Rock Garden displays a large assortment of mountain plants, Mediterranean plants, and other moisture-loving species from around the world.
36 The Royal Kitchens were designed by William Kent to serve Prince Frederick's grand mansion. The kitchens were located in a separate building to avoid the smells of cooking and the risk of fire in the main house.
37 Outside the Royal Kitchens are these beautiful parterres of boxwood and lavender - the color combination is stunning.
38 The geometric shapes of these parterres adds a beautiful and formal touch - perfect for Royals.
39 Cedrus libani, Cedar of Lebanon - a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region. It's a tall evergreen tree, which has been prized for its high quality timber, oils and resins for thousands of years. This conifer usually has a single, thick trunk, with many horizontal branches.
40 This is a narrow leaved ash tree, Fraxinus angustifolia. This is a medium sized deciduous tree that can grow up to about 100-feet tall and three-feet wide. The bark is smooth and pale grey on young specimens, becoming square cracked and knobby on old trees. Take a look at how it is growing - quite interesting.
41 This massive tree is a Lucombe oak, a crossbreed of Quercus and hispanica 'Lucombeana.' This tree was planted in 1773, and is believed to be one of the original seedlings of prominent nursery owner, William Lucombe. It is fast growing and semi-deciduous, meaning it only drops leaves when new ones grow in the spring.
42 This is the Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway - a real bird's eye view of the treetops, nearly 60-feet in the air. The walkway was designed to be a light and discreet presence within the trees' canopies.
43 The walkway weaves its way through a section of mature woodland containing trees planted during the 18th century. The design includes 12-bridges, linked by 10-round platforms with one main access pylon and a "classroom' platform.
44 The walkway is made of weathering steel, a high-strength steel that rusts over time and has a natural untouched look. It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects who took great care in building so as to not disturb the trees' root systems. They did this by using radar survey, so they could strategically position the concrete piles between major roots.
45 The views from the walkway are majestic. It welcomes nearly three-thousand visitors a day. Ryan highly recommends everyone visit Kew Gardens and stroll along this walkway after visiting the other features. http://www.kew.org
46 The Pagoda was designed at the height of the 18th century craze with Chinoiserie. Built in 1762, it tapers with successive floors from the first to the topmost being one-foot less in diameter and height than the preceding one. It has been restored several times since it was originally constructed. Its most distinguishable dragons carved from wood and gilded with gold were never replaced, but efforts to restore the structure to its original splendor are expected to be completed when the Pagoda is reopened to the public in 2017.