All The Buzz On The Hive At Kew Gardens

Processed with Snapseed.There are a few spots in London that all Londoners should check out and Kew Gardens is one of them. It’s 300 acres of amazing plant life, forestry, lakes, secret gardens and greenery.

Sadly, it took me almost four years to get there. I had actually only visited for the first time this last spring during blossom season. So when I was invited back by Grow Wild UK for an after-hours tour and to check out the new-ish Hive exhibit, how I could I say no?

(I wasn’t so sure about this “fresh air” thing, but you know, I gave it my best shot. ?)


If you haven’t heard of Grow Wild before, they’re the outreach arm of Kew. They’re trying to get people to learn, grow and reconnect with plants on a daily basis. It’s not a bad goal in a concrete city like London. They wanted to show off some of this mission (and their beautiful flora and fauna) to some of London’s top Instagrammers. I was honoured to be invited along.

The tour itself was a blast. It was obviously clear these guys, who are scientists by day, don’t give a lot of tours at night. Not that this was a bad thing, mind you, because the whole evening felt wonderfully authentic and unplanned rather than them reading from a script they memorized years ago. It also meant we could do things like spontaneously climb the tree walkway, which clearly wasn’t on their original schedule, and take some amazing shots at sunset.

It also created pretty amazing conversations like this:

Me: “Hey, what’s an interesting Kew Gardens fact in 10 seconds or less for my Snapchat.”

Them: “Ummm, we honestly have no idea. Can’t think of a thing.”

Me: “Ok”

*Turns off recording. Then, literally five seconds later*

Them: “Hey, did you know we have an olive branch that came from Tutankhamun’s tomb? Also, we’re legally the only place in England that is allowed to grow cannabis and magic mushrooms for scientific research?”

Me: “Oh come on!”


Out first stop through the garden was to the Treetop Walkway. As previously mentioned, I don’t think it was actually on the tour, but we were nearby, so they removed the chain and up we went.

This thing is beautiful and if you haven’t walked it at Kew before, do so. 18-meters high with 118 stairs all the way to the top and was designed by the same architects as The London Eye. It is meant to give you a bird’s eye view of the beautiful garden.  Also, give you some eyes on birds, since many of them nest that high. I saw a ton of London’s legendary green parakeets squawking in the trees and views of the garden I never would have seen before.

The Treetop Walkway is always part of your ticket into Kew, so honestly, next time you’re there, plan it in.


Processed with Snapseed.You could tell these guys were experts of everything Kew, since they knew not only the shortcut to The Hive, but also fascinating things to see along the way, like beautiful algae-filled green ponds and lighting trees barely holding on to their roots.

But they had a destination in mind and it was The Hive, easily one of the most beautiful exhibits I have seen in London. An 17-meter tall open air structure, it was originally created for the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo and then moved here to Kew. It’s made up of over 170,000 parts, with 1,000 glowing LED lights and noises within that sing and hums according to what the real bees of Kew are doing at that exact moment.

It’s stunning. It’s stunning as you’re walking up to it. It’s stunning outside. And it’s stunning as you step in and are surrounded by noise and sound.

No question, you’ll get a completely different experience in the day time than you do in the evening like we saw it, but either way, it’s a stop that must be done on your next trip to Kew.

The Hive is included as part of your Kew Gardens ticket and open when the garden is, as long as there are no severe weather issues.


Now comes the part you can’t check out… or at least, not without a little preparation.

As we finished at The Hive, it started to pour, and so our lovely guides took us back to their lab to stay dry.

And so we entered… The Fungarium.

This is home to Kew’s mushrooms. There are an estimated 1.25 million specimens of dried fungi, including approximately 50,000 original types, are here. It is, according to Kew, “one of the oldest, largest, and most important mycological reference collections in the world.”

It is also awesome.

Hidden below the gardens is a small office building with meticulously labeled boxes everywhere you look. And in each one, samples of mushrooms from all over the world. They also have random unmarked papers and samples in a glass cabinet near the front. You might just walk by it until someone points out that those are Charles Darwin’s notes and

They also have random unmarked papers and samples in a glass cabinet near the front. You might just walk by it until someone points out that those are Charles Darwin’s notes and findings as well as scrapping from Alexender Flemming’s original experiment that invented penicillin. So, you know, nothing big.

The whole spot is very Harry Potter like, with rows and rows of unopened green boxes just waiting for you to peer into. This is where our guides really got to geek out. He would open a box and pull out a giant floppy mushroom, or one that looked like a squid, or another that perfectly represented male anatomy. Again, they clearly weren’t ready to take us here and he was sort of winging it as we went along, but who cares, his enthusiasm and the mystery of the place was contagious.

The Fungarium is sadly only open to researchers by appointment only. A written request to visit is required at least two weeks prior to your proposed visit. For more info on visiting, click here.


It was now pitch black outside and time to leave Kew. This is one of those spots that you could visit every day for your entire life and still find something new and amazing to see. But hopefully, I’ve given you a few reasons to want to check it out (or check it out again.)


Photo by Lucie of

Kew Gardens is located at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB. It is open daily from 10am and adults tickets cost £14.

And if you have your own Kew Secrets, I’d love to read them. Either review it on Yelp (and friend me here) or throw them in the comments!



  • Leanne

    I really need to get up off my butt and make the trek across to Kew one day – it’s just so far away! c

    • Alex

      You must, it’s so good!