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Introducing Kew's Alpine Nursery and the people who care for the plants

Graham Walters
14 October 2010
Blog team: 
Find out about what goes on in the Alpine Nursery at Kew Gardens. Follow Graham Walters, the team leader of of the Nursery, behind the scenes and meet the people who care for the wonderful plants grown there.

So, as Richard said in his introduction, the Alpine Nursery is tucked away behind the scenes at the north end of the Gardens at Kew. It’s located in an area called the Melon Yard where, surprise surprise, they used to grow melons. Now it’s rather different and houses three separate nursery areas; one supporting the work of the Jodrell Laboratory, another growing all the bedding and decorative plants that brighten areas such as the Palm House Parterre, the Duke's Garden and the Queen's Garden and then our nursery.


A view of the Alpine Nursery

The Alpine Nursery has three different types of structure. There’s a large glasshouse split into five separate zones which is heated just enough to keep the frost away in the depths of winter. Next, there’s a group of polythene tunnels covering plunge beds filled with sand and finally a couple of structures which are a little unusual. Imagine two large glasshouses with the sides and ends removed to leave just the roofs, underneath which are raised beds and mobile benches.


Plants protected from winter rain

We also have a separate area, the Alpine Yard, hidden behind the School of Horticulture with traditional brick frames and old-fashioned glasshouses (no computer-control here). Here we grow some shade-loving plants, but the real star of the show is the bonsai collection. This is diligently tended by our specialist, Richard Kernick, who looks after many attractive and aged trees which are displayed in rotation in the Bonsai House.


Hidden behind the School of Horticulture is the Alpine Yard 

Back in the Melon Yard, Jeremy Broome oversees the bulbous collections and has special responsibility for a very nice group of Mediterranean plants. Sue Skinner looks after a variety of bulbs and alpines including large groups of campanulas, saxifragas, roscoeas and sempervivums. Kit Strange mainly tends bulbous plants along with some moist shade lovers. She has a large collection of alpines at home and also gives lectures to local Alpine Garden Society (AGS) groups and organises an AGS show every year north of London. Alina Syed is responsible for propagating material for the Rock Garden and likes to experiment with different techniques. And then there's me, Graham Walters. I oversee the whole nursery and have a special responsibility for growing cushion plants such as dionysias and androsaces.


Alpine nursery staff.

Back row: Graham Walters, Richard Wilford, Jeremy Broome

Middle row: Kit Strange, Alina Syed, Sue Skinner

Front row: Richard Kernick


Next time I’ll tell you more about the different parts of the nursery and our day to day activities. See you then.

- Graham -


26 November 2010
It is such a pleasure to have this link that I found from Daniel Mosquin's website at the UBC botanical gardens website in British Columbia, Canada where I live. Kew Gardens are a long way for me to visit very often but this is the next best thing. Thanks
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