Laetitia Maklouf is an author, garden writer and blogger. Her ‘Virgin Gardener’ podcast is at www.laetitiamaklouf.com/podcast and she gardens for five minutes a day on Instagram stories.
The first thing that captured my imagination was the pagoda; as a child I used to think that it belonged to an amazing emperor or king. It’s always been in a state of danger and disrepair, and the sense of mystery was enough to pull me in.
I’ve been going ever since I can remember, I think that we used to put a coin in a turnstile – but that could be something that I was told. It was always where we went for a picnic to celebrate birthdays and so on. We’d spend a lot of time looking for the perfect spot – of which there are many. And, of course, you don’t have to worry about dodging dog poo!
We got married in the Temperate House. It was a very cold December wedding and it was spectacular to be there with all the beautiful plants. Then, when I got into gardening, it took on another significance. I went there to swot up and learn about plants, and the wonderful thing is that anywhere you go there’s a label!
There’s a thing that happens when you enter Kew, where time almost stops. For a Londoner who’s not used to the countryside, it’s as close as you can get to a country garden; manicured without being controlled. That’s the look I go for in my own garden – I’ve tailored my aesthetic to accommodate my laziness and the fact that I’m time-poor.
When I had children, Kew became my respite. If it’s cold or raining there are the glasshouses, The Princess of Wales glasshouse is always warm and lovely. And I love running along the long borders, the drifts of plants are such an amazing addition.
Now when I go to Kew by myself it’s a feeling of freedom that can’t be matched. It’s different now, with the freedom and lightness to just wander around. I’m mean to myself when it comes to free time, but this feels sanctioned because it’s about work. It’s an amazing place to be because it’s me time, but guiltless – and that’s a rare combination.
Words: Naomi Slade
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE. Visit www.kew.org or tel: 020 8332 5655 for information, tickets and opening times.