Plant lovers are in for a treat now that Kew Gardens has opened a gallery specialising in botanical art.

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery will exhibit many important works, some never seen by the public before.

The space designed by award-winning architects Walters and Cohen is linked to the Marianne North Gallery and will house precious works, not only collected by Dr Sherwood, but from the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Up until now most of the works have been kept as part of study collections, only examined by experts and researchers, but thanks to state-of-the-art climate control in the new gallery visitors can view the treasures for themselves.

An extensive traveller, Dr Sherwood has been collecting contemporary botanical art since 1990. Her collection includes work by more than 200 artists from 30 different countries and documents the emergence of a new wave of botanical painters and their art forms. It is arguably the most important private collection and complements Kew's own illustrations.

The Royal Botanic Gardens' botanical art includes images of extinct species and some of the pictures may be the only surviving record. As well as being great works of art, these historic pieces are highly valued by taxonomists, horticulturists and researchers.

It is hoped that the images displayed in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery will help raise public awareness of the beauty and fragility of the natural world.

A total of three exhibitions a year will be hosted in the gallery giving visitors a chance to see the most significant artists from 1700 onwards.

Entry is included in the standard admission to the gardens. This is s13 for adults (concessions s12). Children under 17 are free.