The spruced-up Decimus Burton masterpiece at Kew Gardens doesn’t just have new glass and paint – 10,000 plants have been replaced so specimens can grow for generations to come
- Kew Gardens’ Temperate House restored – in pictures
- ‘Breathtakingly beautiful’: Temperate House reopens after revamp
Feral goats are the greatest threat to the rare cabbage tree, according to a sign in Kew Gardens’ newly restored Temperate House, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world, which reopens this week after a £41m, five-year renovation. Goats were never much of a threat at Kew, where the endangered species has been carefully cultivated since a specimen was found on the tiny, volcanic Robinson Crusoe Island near Chile. But rusting iron columns and creaky windows had posed a significant danger, to plants and humans alike.
A government report into the state of the national botanic gardens in 2010 concluded of the building that “urgent restoration is essential if closure is to be avoided”. Windows had been sealed shut in a 1970s refurb and masonry cladding was crumbling off in chunks. The last five years have seen 69,000 individual elements removed and repaired and 15,000 panes of glass replaced, all under the safe cover of a temporary tent big enough to hold three Boeing 747s. It has been a mammoth undertaking, and the result is suitably breathtaking.
Those who remember entering the thick green gauntlet might be shocked by the pruning
Decades of paintwork have been scrubbed off with ground garnet and replaced with five coats of oil rig paint