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Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Cedar Vista

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Cedar Vista
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Cedar Vista and Pagoda

Updated @ 3:20pm on Thursday, September 8, 2011: Added a second photo to the entry by Douglas Justice of UBC Botanical Garden.

It's been a while since I've shared a scanned image from the John Davidson collection of lantern slides (all of these can be viewed on the gallery of the site dedicated to UBC Botanical Garden's first director, "Botany" John Davidson). Although this isn't one of the slides that he decided to hand-tint, I found it intriguing because I was able to locate a modern counterpart along with the story of how things changed.

A present-day view of this vista can be seen (added) with Douglas Justice's accompanying photograph or on Benjamin Simpson's Hodomania blog, in his entry on Kew Gardens (scroll to the bottom of the page, or here's a direct link to the image). A side-by-side comparison of the images shows the vista having been transformed from a relatively narrow lane with imposing Atlantic and deodar cedars to a wider lane with the addition of other trees and shrubs in a far more informal planting style. These latter plantings are also evident from the satellite photographs of Kew via the Google Maps link below the photograph.

The changing cultivated landscape helps to date John Davidson's photograph, placing it before 1923-1924. However, it is still unknown as to whether this was taken on a return visit to the UK for him, or prior to his immigration to Canada in 1911. Kew's web site helps to determine the date, because they include a brief history of the Cedar Vista:

"Cedar Vista... was planted in 1871...Constant pruning of the trees over the years led to their becoming mutilated, so in 1923-24 director Sir Arthur William Hill felled many and widened the vista by some 12 metres. Today, irregularly spaced trees give Cedar Vista the character of an 'informal avenue'."


Terrific to see garden history in the making this way -- i was there at Kew a month or so ago, probably have a photograph of the vista from that very spot or very near it.

They made a good choice. It looks better today, less oppressive.

Very interesting pictures and shows how different the landscaping ideas have been during the years. I have often stood and looked along the vista to the Pagoda. Kew is still a very restful place despite the planes landing at the huge airport London Heathrow almost seem to clip the treetops when they approach the landing.


it is sadly many many years since I visited Kew, but I think that your photo comparison is invalid. I am pretty certain that the modern photo is a view of the pagoda along the "pagoda vista" not along the "cedar vista". The tree in front of the pagoda is the clue. On the Kew website there is a zoomable panoramic view from the pagoda which reinforces (for me!) my recollection.


I'm fairly certain about the linked image -- the photograph from Douglas is something from his collection, so perhaps he did take it from another one of the paths.

Sounds like we need someone in the area to go check for us and bring back some photos!

Variation on an old joke among my friends: "Cedar vista? Yeah, I cedar vista."

did the earthquake shake you up daniel?

i like the first view the vista is right out the english novels
i have read the dark tall trees and the foggy foggy dew

i live in florida usa and the tropics are busy

I didn't personally feel anything, but local people in highrises certainly did (apparently to the point of running out of the highrises screaming).

hi Daniel,

i think that you are exactly right.

The linked photo is indeed along the "cedar vista", but the modern one on this page from Douglas is along the "pagoda vista".

..still they are all interesting photos - thank you


The different positioning of the white window frames on the pagoda (two columns in the old photo of the Cedar Vista and only one in the new Pagoda vista) is a giveaway.

There is an old postcard, possibly of the Pagoda Vista, at the bottom of the page here:


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