Kew at the British Museum blog
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.
Preparing the pathways
Next up in the build is the path. Following the lines previously marked out, the team carefully excavate the subsoil to a predetermined depth. This depth is six inches and has to be precise as we are working to specific restrictions for excavation. Richard Lavelle is an old hand with the digger bucket and has worked the site on many occasions. Expertly he guides the machine and removes the subsoil leaving a two metre wide cut through the landscape. This is then filled with a mix of stone and stone particles to form a solid base for our path.
The excess soil from the path excavation is tipped into the planting bed shapes to give us some height and drama to the landscape. This also enables us to increase the usable soil depth for the really large plants which have deep rootballs.
Using the digger to form the path base
Our first delivery
This is always a nervous moment as our plants have been transported lying down! Our lorry arrives early in the morning carrying the stars of the show. Last seen some time ago, and selected by hand, this precious cargo has been loaded by experts. Slowly we begin to take the plants out in reverse to the loading. We specified a ‘curtain sided’ lorry so we could remove the flanks of the trailer and gain full access to the plants. Using a combination of straps and forklift the plants are unloaded and stood to enjoy a drop of rain on the leaves. The individual pots are watered, as they are quite thirsty after their journey!
Carefully placed plants tessellate in the lorry
A forklift removes plants from the lorry
Once the plants are unloaded (a total of five deliveries!) it's time to get them into the planting beds and into final position. Following our planting plan, plants are laid out and positioned to a number of aesthetic criteria. After some tweaking and sometimes a complete change of plan the plants are plunged into their new home and watered.
Plants are moved into position within the Landscape
Approximately 450 plants - big and small - are amassed and waiting to take their place in the landscape so we will be planting for quite a few days to come!
- Steve & Richard -
2 comments on 'Creating pathways and our first delivery!'
On Monday 28 March, building of the Australia Landscape commenced.
We have stripped the turf from the west forecourt and will use this thin layer of turf to build height into the planting beds and develop the landforms describing our Australia landscape in Bloomsbury!
Turf stripping on the forecourt lawn (Image: RBG Kew)
Next on the list is to translate our three dimensional computer model onto the ground. Armed with measuring tapes, spray paint, dimensions, radii and projections we begin to draw out our design. Starting in the Western Australia section (not quite the weather in Perth yet!) we quickly sketch out the positions of our modelled rock as Alan Bishop is keen to get modelling.
Kew and Landform team marking out the design (Image: RBG Kew)
Alan is our ‘rockman’, adept in creating natures geological wonders with simple ingredients steel mesh, fibre glass and a lot of skill. This time his task is to faithfully represent the Inselburg granite outcrops I witnessed in January – no mean feat!
Following some initial moving around and discussion, its final placing is ratified and Alan and team begin to fashion the steel framework to which the model rock cake mix will be applied.
Making the steel framework for the granite rock (Image: RBG Kew)
Richard and I then concentrate on the rest of the shapes the team have marked out, carefully adjusting the lines until we are completely satisfied; lots of standing back and seemingly staring at the floor!
Keep checking back here to find out more from the Landscape as it happens...
- Steve & Richard -
1 comment on 'Building of the Landscape has started'
Work started early for the Australia Landscape, scouring nursery catalogues, botanic garden lists and websites in search of elusive Australian plants.
Many are non-hardy and the Western Australian flora almost impossible to find, although our searches did turn up some great plants grown here in the UK, and further afield in Italy and the Netherlands. We have gathered a bountiful stock of plants and intend to mark some of them as star plants which will be highlighted in the Landscape.
Left: Steve outside a glasshouse containing Australian plants in Italy (Image: RBG Kew)
Right: Richard in a Dutch nursery tagging Pandanus, another star plant (Image: RBG Kew)
Our next blog will be direct from the build, come back and find out how we are getting on. Hopefully the weather will be kind!
- Steve & Richard -
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In this year's British Museum Landscape, our crowd-pulling device is the creation of a replica granite outcrop, based on the Western Australian Inselburgs (isolated island rock formation). I was lucky to see these first hand on my trip to Western Australia in December last year.
Granite outcrop general view, a three hour drive outside of Perth (Image: Steve Ruddy)
These huge landscape interventions feature their own unique flora as explained to me by Grady Brand of Kings Park and Botanic Garden as we stood in the midst of standing boulders. Eagerly documenting the exact composition of every feature of the landscape around me to enable us to create an authentic representation, I realised how delicate this ecosystem is. For example, in the image below you can see how a burning rubber car tyre has caused white staining on the rock. The white staining is the death of the algae that colonise the outcrop and make it a dark brown/black colour.
Outcrop showing the death of algae caused by car tyres (Image: Steve Ruddy)
It's not just physical damage that is affecting the flora and fauna out there; it is also increasingly at risk from factors such as climate change and invasive species.
Lichens, said to grow at approximately 1 mm per year - demonstrating the age of this habitat (Image: Steve Ruddy)
From studying these outcrops, some of the features we hope to represent in our landscape are (left) a cracked granite pavement looking remarkably like a man-made feature; (middle) our wow-factor boulder; and (right) grass trees growing in the thin soils that accumulate in the cracks in the granite outcrop.
(Images: Steve Ruddy)
The building of the Landscape begins at the end of March. Hopefully this has given you a flavour of what to look out for when we open the display on 21 April 2011.
1 comment on 'Inspiration from granite outcrops'
This year's Landscape on the forecourt of the British Museum will focus on the unique flora and landscapes of Australia. Luckily I was despatched by the team to visit Australia over Christmas to gain first hand experience of the natural habitats and plant communities.
Built by Kew and the British Museum, and supported by Rio Tinto, the landscape will highlight the fragile and endangered habitats of Australia, stretching from the east coast, and spanning the red centre to the west coast. No mean feat in 400 square metres!
Plan of this year's Landscape (Image: RBG Kew)
Beginning my epic journey, I flew into the night and arrived sometime later in sunny Melbourne, boarded a flight to Hobart in Tasmania, met with friends, and promptly headed for Mount Wellington to appraise the habitats and gain insights to inform our design.
Mount Wellington, bleached timber and rock (Image: Steve Ruddy)
Whilst travelling around Tasmania (a fantastic landscape) many other ideas and references began to present themselves. Amongst this fascinating flora some noteworthy sightings including Huon Pine (Lagarostrobos franklinii). This is the oldest living tree in Australia, heavily logged for its timber which is golden in colour, easily worked, and has natural anti rotting properties. This plant is very slow growing, only found in the damp southwest of Tasmania and is a protected species. Kew works in partnership with Australia on many conservation projects and seed for this species is banked in the Kew's Millennium Seed Bank.
A lonely specimen of Huon Pine along the King River, Tasmania (Image: Steve Ruddy)
Despite our best efforts we didn’t have time to utilise an offer from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens to feature a small Huon in the display, but stories like that of the Huon pine and the loss of fragile habitats form key messages for the display.
Next stop Western Australia – Perth, with Kings Park as our base and excursions to the Inselburg landscapes…
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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.
The Landscape starts to take shape: Great post and nice blog. beautiful images.beautiful garden and unique blog. thanks for posting it.. by: umesh
The changing and developing landscape: Great post and nice photos. very informative and interesting blog.thanks for sharing unique blog.. by: umesh
Sourcing plants for the North American landscape: Looks to be a wonderful display. Should you require S. purpurea replacement specimens, we have thous ... by: Arthur
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