Episode 48: the Temperate House at Kew Gardens

The tree fern gully in the Temperate House at Kew viewed from the walkway above.

The tree fern gully in the Temperate House at Kew viewed from the walkway above.

One of the best ways of learning how to care about your houseplants is to find out more about how they live in their native habitats. If you can't go and visit them in the wild, a trip to a botanic garden such as Kew in London is the next best thing. The Temperate House at Kew is a huge Victorian glasshouse that's home to thousands of plants from temperate climes, including many plants you'd recognise from your collections.

The Temperate House reopened to the public last week after a five-year restoration programme, so I went along to see the transformation. In this episode you'll hear me getting excited about a gully of tree ferns, an interview with Temperate House horticulturist and houseplant fan Jess Snowball, and more. Below are some links to help you find out more... and scroll on down for more images from the Temperate House.

Wood's cycad, the 'lonely plant' of Kew.

Wood's cycad, the 'lonely plant' of Kew.

  • Read the Guardian's story about the reopening of the Temperate House, read the paper's architecture correspondent Oliver Wainwright's piece on the architecture of the building and see a gallery of images
  • Watch this video from Kew about the history of the Temperate House, including how it looked before the restoration.
  • Read about Australian tree ferns on the Kew Gardens website.
  • Follow Temperate House horticulturist Jess Snowball on Instagram.
  • Read about the 'lonely plant' Wood's cycad on the Kew Gardens website.
  • See an image of the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis) that was touching the roof at the Temperate House before the restoration, and find out more about this palm here.
  • Find out more about the two plants from St Helena that I mention in this episode: Trochetiopsis ebenus and Trochetiopsis erythoxylon.
Here's Kew horticultural trainee and houseplant fan Jess Snowball in the Temperate House.

Here's Kew horticultural trainee and houseplant fan Jess Snowball in the Temperate House.

This is the tree fern I wax lyrical about...

This is the tree fern I wax lyrical about...

Just before I left Kew, I bumped into the legendary plantsman and Kew horticulturist Carlos Magdalena, whose book The Plant Messiah is a wonderful read. Tragically my sound recorder gave up the ghost after just five minutes so I didn't manage to get all of our chat on tape, but if you want to hear what I did manage to salvage of my interview with Carlos, become a Ledge-end by pledging $5 or more a month to On The Ledge via Patreon. Click here for details

Also on Patreon right now is a new episode of On The Ledge: An Extra Leaf, my subscription-only series for Patreon subscribers. You can hear an extract from my chat with aroid expert Dave The Plant Guy aka Dave Janas about mystery Monsteras in this episode to whet your appetite. 

Question of the week

Pam wanted to know whether she can keep a plant happy in its pot and not have to upsize it. She writes: "For instance, I have a bird's nest fern that I love on my desk in it's pink pot but know that it could use a new, larger home. Can I simply cut the roots back, give a dirt refresh and keep it in the current pot? Or, will it get depressed on me and die off?" I advise that as bird's nest fern is an epiphyte, it doesn't have a big rootball so will probably be ok in the same pot for several years: another option for houseplants that aren't epiphytes (or epiphytes that really have got too big or their container) is root pruning or top dressing. There's a good piece on root pruning in this New York Times piece and the Laidback Gardener has a good post on topdressing.

Want to ask me a question? Tweet @janeperrone, leave a message on my Facebook page or email ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com

How to support On The Ledge

If you like the idea of supporting On The Ledge on a regular basis but don't know what Patreon's all about, check out the FAQ here: if you still have questions, leave a comment or email me - ontheledgepodcast@gmail.com. If you're already supporting others via Patreon, just click here to set up your rewards!

For those who prefer to make a one-off donation, you can still buy me a coffee! A donation of just £3 helps keep On The Ledge going: helping to pay for me to travel to interviews, and for expenses like website hosting and audio equipment. Don't forget to join the Facebook page for news of what's coming up on the show and bonus blogposts!

If you prefer to support the show in other ways, please do go and rate and review On The Ledge on iTunesStitcher or wherever you listen. It's lovely to read your kind comments, and it really helps new listeners to find the show.

On The Ledge talks, live show and houseplant chats 

I'll be making an appearance at Gardeners' World Live in Birmingham on June 14 on the Blooming Interiors stage - check out the schedule here, and stay tuned as I'll have a ticket giveaway coming up in the next few weeks.

I am also going to be at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on the afternoon of July 4 giving talks on houseplants in the roses theatre - do join me if you can. And on the evening of Friday October 26 I'll be bringing a live show of On The Ledge to the RHS London Urban Garden show, with special guests including Alys Fowler and all kinds of leafy fun! Put those dates in your diary NOW!


This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy DropsAn Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day Gokarna by Samuel Corwin, and Oh Mallory by Josh Woodward, all licensed under Creative Commons.

Jane Perrone