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Follow Kew's horticulture experts, Steve Ruddy, Tony Hall and Richard Wilford, as they build a series of landscapes at the British Museum in London.

These landscapes represent a unique partnership between the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, celebrating a shared vision to strengthen cultural understanding and support biodiversity conservation across the world.

The landscapes are inspired by the collections of the British Museum and Kew. They draw attention to the importance of these chosen countries and their rich variety of plants and trees, and the value that their native people place upon them as cultural symbols and resources in daily life.

This year's North American landscape will take visitors from the Florida swamps, through the Missouri prairie to the New England forest – all without leaving London.

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The plants have arrived

By: Steve Ruddy - 02 May 2012
Following the arrival of over 4,000 plants, Steve Ruddy and his team have been busy building the North American Landscape... but weather conditions have made it challenging!
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The plants have arrived - this time in the rain. This is probably the wettest install we have seen,  and although good for the plants it slows the job down considerably.

Image of a man in the rain

Rain, rain and more rain

We have now taken delivery of the woodland trees, some of these are giants, the largest being the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) which stands at 8 m tall! 

Image of a tree being lifted at the Landscape

The large trees are slowly manoeuvred into position as per the planting plan for the woodland

The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) was next off the lorry, again some of these are large trees and require the upmost care to ensure no damage occurs. The tree branches are tied together in transit to protect them from damage whilst they are transported to the landscape. It is important to remember to untie them especially with the tall trees, as accessing the the branches once they are standing is very difficult!

Photo of tree being moved

The team have a difficult job ensuring the trees are carefully moved into position without damaging the trees

The second day of deliveries saw the arrival of the carnivorous plants (1,000 of them!) delivered early in the morning on specially designed trolleys. These immediately start to fill the forecourt with green.

Image of Sarracenia plants

Pitcher plants mouths open for unsuspecting insects!

Last to arrive - again in the pouring rain - are the 3,000 prairie plants, which were sown in glasshouses in late November and grown especially for the Landscape.

Photo of prairie plants outside the Museum

Prairie plants ready for planting

These plants will provide a spectacular flower show, full of colour, once they are planted and become established. Rudbeckia, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Echinacea and many grasses are included.

The Landscape opens next Thursday 10 May - fingers crossed the sun will come out for then!

- Steve -




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Sourcing plants for the North American landscape

By: Steve Ruddy & Tony Hall - 12 Apr 2012
This year will see the West Lawn of the British Museum transformed by an array of stunning trees, flowers and grasses from Canada and the USA. Steve Ruddy and Tony Hall have been busy getting things ready.
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Banner for British Museum North American Landscape 

From Australia to North America

Once again we have taken to our conceptual aeroplane and this year flown across the world from Australia to North America. As usual we have set ourselves a daunting task, representing the flora and landscape of the United States and Canada in one of our favourite places: the West Lawn of the British Museum. This will be no mean feat!

Australia landscape at the British Museum

Last year's Australia Landscape at the British Museum

Getting hold of the plants

Obtaining the plants for this new landscape has been a little less of a challenge than usual as most of those we have chosen are hardy in the UK. Having said that, getting hold of some of them isn’t quite as easy as you may think! For instance where do you find 1000 insect eating monsters (Sarracenia) that live in a wetland?

Photo of Sarracenia purpurea

Pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) at Kew Gardens

And where do you get 6 m tall trees that can breathe underwater (Taxodium)?

Taxodium distichum at Kew Gardens

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) at Kew Gardens

Luckily at Kew we know a few people who grow these fantastic plants here in the UK and we managed to order them early on in our planning stages. Many of our plants have been specially grown for us, such as those that will feature in the 'prairie' section of our Landscape: sweet grass (Hierochloe), coneflower (Echinacea) and the New England aster.

Some of the Canadian plants were tricky to find, such as the paper birch (Betula papyrifera).

Discovering the beauty of ‘fall’ colour

In November last year, Tony and I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, to meet with the Arnold Arboretum staff and visit the ‘Garden in the Woods’, a native garden run by the New England Wildflower Society.

View of Boston from the top of St Peters hill, Boston

View of Boston from the top of St Peters hill, the highest point in the arboretum

Whilst we were there we took some time to experience the autumn or ‘fall’ colour. The trees in Boston change from greens to vibrant colours throughout the yellow and red spectrum creating a stunning visual feast.

Taking a cue from this landscape we have chosen, to name but a few, maples (Acers), tulip trees (Liriodendron), and ash (Fraxinus) to recreate our own ‘fall’ at the British Museum. We have agreed to leave the landscape in for a little longer than usual as the colours can be best enjoyed from mid-October to early November.

White ash (Fraxinus americana) at Kew Gardens

White ash (Fraxinus americana) at Kew Gardens showing 'fall' colour

Our next blog will be direct from the forecourt, as we greet the plants on their arrival. Fingers crossed for their safe delivery – and some good weather too!

- Steve and Tony -


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Desert flowers bloom

By: Richard Wilford - 07 Sep 2011
Despite the far from Australian summer we have had in the UK, the plants in the Australia Landscape outside the British Museum have flourished. Some of the most colourful come from the driest parts of Australia.
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Australia Landscape logo

Many of the plant species in the Australia Landscape have done well over the summer, with lots of new growth, flowers and fresh young foliage to be seen. At the moment the most colourful section is the desert, where the blooms contrast with the bright red sand that represents the famous 'red centre' of this huge continent.


 View of the Australia Landscape

View of the Australia Landscape


The dark maroon-red flowers of kangaroo paws and the golden-yellow, daisy flowers of Bracteantha dominate this part of the landscape, but amongst these can be seen a few glorious red blooms of Sturt's desert pea, Swainsona formosa, the floral emblem of South Australia, and the pussy tails, Ptilotus exaltatus, also known as pink mulla mulla, with their fluffy pink flower spikes. Both these species grow in the driest parts of Australia, so to see them blooming outside the British Museum in London is a real treat.


 Sturt's desert pea in flower Flowers of Ptilotus exaltatus

Left, Swainsona formosa and right, Ptilotus exaltatus, flowering in the desert zone


Away from the desert zone, colour can be seen beneath the lush plantings of eastern Australian trees and shrubs, particularly the blue flowers of the Swan River daisy, Brachyscome, that line the paths. These have been flowering all summer long.


 Swan River daisy in flower

The blue flowers of the Swan River daisy


Bottle brushes (Callistemon) and silky oak (Grevillea) are among the shrubs still flowering and Grevillea robusta is doing very well, with several orange-red, spidery flower heads on display.


 Grevillea robusta in flower

The silky oak, Grevillea robusta, in flower


After a difficult dry start to the season in April and May, the majority of the plants in the Australia Landscape have settled in well and many have put on lots of new growth, including the Wollemi pine and Acacia baileyana. Even the subtropical bangalow palm, Archontophoenix  alexandrae, has sent out new leaves.


 Archontophoenix alexandrae outside the British Museum

Amongst the eastern Australian plants is the bangalow palm, Archontophoenix alexandrae


Kew at the British Museum is open until 16 October so there is plenty of time to visit this piece of Australia in the middle of London and see these plants for yourself.


- Richard -

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The changing and developing landscape

By: Philippa Edwards - 31 May 2011
Project Manager Philippa Edwards, provides an update on how the plants are looking in the Australia Landscape.
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Australia Landscape - Kew at the British Museum

As project manager of the Australia Landscape it is very exciting for me to see the Landscape change throughout the year, especially at the beginning as the plants begin to ‘find their feet’ (or roots) and grow and flower as they usually would in the Australian bush.

Bottlebrush in Australia Landscape

Bottlebrush in Australia Landscape

If you have walked across the Museum forecourt recently, you may have noticed the bright red bottle brushes are flowering at the eastern end of the Australia Landscape. As you wander through the Landscape you can’t miss the Grevillea flowers and the striking pinks, purples and yellows of the everlasting daisies which, as their name suggests, will be in flower throughout the Australian season. The hakea is flowering in Tasmania, and the buds on the wonga wonga promise to burst into stunning flower any day now.


Everlasting daisies in Australia Landscape

Everlasting daisies in the Australia Landscape

Some of the eucalypts have struggled following their transplantation and due to strong winds and sun over Easter, but if you look closely you can see lots of light green new growth which has sprouted as they begin to settle in to their new home. To ensure the Landscape continues to thrive, it receives regular attention from experienced Kew staff, and a team of British Museum staff have also volunteered to spend time maintaining and monitoring the Landscape following a crash course in horticulture from Kew.

Wollemi pine in the Australia Landscape

Wollemi pine in the Australia Landscape

The most successful plant in the Landscape so far seems to be the Wollemi pine. It seems London’s April climate suits this plant (believed extinct until it discovered in the bush near Sydney in 1994), as they have grown about 20 cm since being planted at the beginning of April. If you’re in London you should drop in and see the plants grow and change throughout the season.

Bloomsbury fox paw prints next to the Sturt's desert peas

Bloomsbury fox paw prints next to the Sturt's desert peas

If you visit early in the day you may also see evidence of the ‘Bloomsbury dingo’ (aka a fox) who seems to have taken an interest (hopefully not a culinary one) in the Sturt’s desert peas. Other wildlife to be seen include a number honey bees buzzing around the paperbarks.

- Philippa -

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The Landscape starts to take shape

By: Steve Ruddy & Richard Wilford - 19 Apr 2011
As the plants start to form a framework, the rockwork nears completion.
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Australia Landscape: Kew at the British Museum

The final touches are now being made to the granite outcrop; the base colour is sprayed on and intricate details are applied, such as lichens and subtle variations in the composition of the rock surface emulating the weathering of the granite.

Applying fine detail to the granite outcrop

Applying fine detail to the granite outcrop

The finished rock looks remarkably realistic and once the plants are placed and planted, the outcrop begins to look just like the Inselberg landscapes of Western Australia witnessed first hand back in January.

The rockwork nears completion, while in the foreground evergreen kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos flavida) are planted.

The rockwork nears completion, while in the foreground evergreen kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos flavida) are planted

Meanwhile, with the larger trees and shrubs in place the smaller specimens are planted around them to form the thicket of diverse species characteristic of the Australian flora. Bottlebrushes (Callistemon) and spider flowers (Grevillea) are among the plants that make up the fabric of the landscape.

Kew team getting stuck in!

The Kew team getting stuck in!

In addition, around 2000 flowering bedding plants arrive, including Swan River daisies (Brachyscome) and, rarely seen in the UK, desert everlastings (Rhodanthe), to be interwoven throughout the display. Some have been specially grown from seed for the landscape, such as Sturt’s desert pea (Swainsona formosa), an inhabitant of Australia’s red centre and one of the star plants highlighted on the information panels.

Swan river daisies delivered to the site, ready for planting

Swan River daisies delivered to the site, ready for planting

Once all the plants are in, the soil is mulched, providing a high quality finish to the planting beds, as well as suppressing weeds and conserving moisture in the soil. Different mulches are used for the varying habitats represented, including red sand to indicate the dramatic, inhospitable desert of Australia. The final task is surfacing the path, ready for the opening this week.

- Steve & Richard -

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About Steve, Tony and Richard

Steve Ruddy is Manager of the Garden Development Unit, and is responsible for concept design, planning and delivery of a diverse range of projects, services and activities at Kew.

Tony Hall is responsible for Kew’s Arboretum, managing the globally important plant collections and heritage landscape. Expert in all aspects of plant growth and care, Tony manages the Arboretum Nursery ensuring the collections are safe guarded for the future. You can find out more about his work by following the Arboretum team blog.

Richard Wilford is the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew. His responsibilities include both nursery collections and collections on public display such as the Alpine plants, Grass Garden, Woodland and Rock Garden, and Order Beds at Kew. Richard also frequently contributes to the Alpine and Rock Garden team blog.

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