Kew magazine blog
Kew magazine is the magazine of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Its purpose is to support and communicate the broad range of Kew’s work as it studies and saves plants, fungi and their habitats around the world. We follow intrepid botanists on expeditions around the world, unearth how Kew’s gardeners put on fantastic horticultural displays every year, and look at how staff are involved in practical conservation projects in both the UK and abroad, and much, much more.
Here you will get the latest updates from Christina Harrison, Editor of Kew magazine. Find out how the magazine is put together and what the latest feature stories are right here.
Our spring issue of Kew magazine is out now, and it’s not on its own due to the magazine going all appy on iTunes.
We’ve been working hard to get Kew magazine available on your iPad and other tablets, and I'm pleased to announce that there is now a new ‘app’ or digital version of Kew magazine available via iTunes. 'Hurrah!' I hear you cry. I have to say it’s turned out much better than we’d ever hoped – which is always a relief.
Not only have we got one-touch links to slideshows, films, blogs and plant profiles, but you can now very easily link through to browse the Kew shop and to buy tickets for events such as Kew the Music, all from one place. You can even email from the app should you want to book a place on a course. There will also be access to Kew’s Twitter and Facebook pages. We’re really hoping that readers find it an enriching experience bringing all parts of Kew together in one place. Shame it’s not scratch and sniff too but we’ll just have to wait for that technology.
If you’re a Friend of Kew you can access this new app magazine for free. That’s right – FREE! If you’re not a Friend (and why not?) you can buy individual issues or a subscription for a bargain price of £3.99 or £10.99 respectively (less than half the price of a print subscription). Once you've got the free 'Kew magazine' app downloaded from iTunes, all you have to do is enter your name and membership number in the My Account section and you're away.
If you have already downloaded the spring issue please refresh as we've had some technical difficulties with the Kew Magazine app.
What's in the issue?
As I write this, the temperature is just above freezing and spring still seems a fair way off, but even so the Gardens are starting to fill with snowdrops, cyclamen and narcissi. These brave little flowers are a beacon of hope that warmer weather will eventually turn up and that we’ll get some sunshine this year. I’m really looking forward to spring and am itching to get into my garden and veg plot. In our spring issue Wakehurst’s garden manager Chris Clennett takes us on a tour of the best Erythronium to see in both gardens, and reveals how best to look after them. I’m sure I’m going to be buying some of these woodland garden jewels for my shady patch very soon.
We also have great features on the beautiful dragon tree (Paulownia kawakamii), the Rapunzel flower (Phyteuma spicatum) and the food of the gods – chocolate (Theobroma cacao). It’s starting to sound like a fairy tale issue!
Behind the scenes with Kew science
On a more serious note we also delve into the problem of how climate change is going to affect both wild coffee species and coffee plantations. It’s a real reminder of how the health of our crops depends on the genetic diversity found in their wild relatives. You can read about current research from Kew and watch an exclusive interview with head of coffee research Dr Aaron Davis about this work on the app.
For lots more about what’s in the issue take a look at the contents pages and two of our features here. If you’re a Friend of Kew please do download our app and try out all the extra features. There’s a lot in there, so give it a go. Enjoy!
- Kew magazine spring issue contents
- How to get your copy
- Check out Kew’s book of the month
- Information on visiting Kew
- Become a Friend
3 comments on 'Your iPad as a window on Kew'
Each year at the end of November almost 300 members of the gardening press get together at this glamorous event to celebrate the best in writing, photography, programme making and online content. These are the 'Oscars' of the gardening world.
Kew magazine was up for several awards and I’m glad to say we won the New Writer award. Rachel Mason Dentinger, who has been writing for us since spring this year, took the award for three features that have appeared in the magazine (see below). The judges said her writing style made in-depth science and conservation stories highly readable, while never dumbing-down their content. I was thrilled for Rachel to get this award as it is so well deserved. Bringing Kew’s science to a wider public, who are often unaware of the kind of work that goes behind the scenes here, can be a daunting task but Rachel rose to the challenge admirably.
Rachel Mason Dentinger accepts her award from Chris Packham
Kew magazine also made the finalist list for three other categories – the Environment award for Bruce Pavlik’s feature on Kew’s restoration ecology programme; Garden Columnist of the Year for Andrew Jackson’s insightful 'Wakehurst View' articles, and Features Photographer of the Year for John Millar, whose stunning images of the David Nash sculptures at Kew adorned The Art of Nature feature in our autumn issue.
This was one of our best years at this prestigious awards event and my thanks must go to all our hard-working writers, photographers, designers and editors who help to create the magazine and bring Kew’s important message to all our readers.
GMG judges comments:
"The judges were astounded not only by the quality but also the breadth of media in this year’s entries, in which authors, journalists, columnists, bloggers, poets, film-makers and radio presenters were all represented. Rachel stood out for her ability to make scientific content accessible to all, skilfully weaving botanical terminology, enlightening interviews and a wonderful sense of place into her pieces – never dumbing down, and always educating upwards."
Read Rachel's winning features here
1 comment on 'Awards Success!'
On 11 September, a fascinating document was published by the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and the Zoological Society of London, documenting the 100 most threatened species in the world today and making a compelling case not just for their protection but for a global change in our cultural conscience. The document, called Priceless or Worthless?, includes a wide range of species from around the world – from frogs to forest trees, from lichens to sloths, and makes for an extraordinary read.
A strong and consistent moral and ethical stance needs to be taken, they argue, that all species have a right to exist. ‘If we accept that a few species can be lost, or that there is an economic argument that justifies extinction, then one by one the species in this book will disappear.’ And these are just the thin-end of the wedge – without a change in attitude there will be many more species becoming extinct in the future.
Tahina spectabilis - known as the suicide or self-destructing palm as it dies after flowering
Suicide palms and medicinal yams
There are many plants in this Top 100 list, including several that botanists at Kew have worked with and are helping to conserve – the suicide palm or dimaka, Tahina spectabilis, from north-west Madagascar, and the wild yam Dioscorea strydomiana, are two notable examples. Both have fascinating stories – you can read more about them by clicking on the links here or below.
Also notable is that many species are from East Africa. Kew has just completed a 64-year-project to document the flora of tropical East Africa. Today (13 September), a celebration of this enormous feat is taking place at Kew with many of the international partners who have authored and been involved with this project. In total 135 scientists from 21 countries helped compile this complete set of publications. The flora – which takes up two metres of shelf space and includes 267 parts – documents the 12,104 wild plant species of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania (representing 3-4 per cent of the entire world’s population of plants).
A collaboration to be proud of
Henk Beentje, current editor of the Flora of Tropical East Africa (FTEA) says, 'More than just a flora has emerged from this project – many people have been trained, friendships forged and solid networks built, which is an excellent result for the conservation of plants in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.’
'The FTEA, like all floras, is all about communication – without proper identification and names there is no communication about plants, and without communication all work on and with wild plants rests on quicksand. Now all further work on the wild plants of this region will be built on a solid foundation – not just botanical work but work on local uses by local people, ecology, vegetation work, zoology, and, of course, conservation.'
Every species matters
Each of the species in both the publications mentioned here is invaluable in terms of the fact, that although we not perceive their direct value to human beings, they each have a valuable place in the habitat they live in, supporting the health and stability of the planet as a whole.
The good news is that many organisations are working to conserve species, and are working together to pool resources to increase their effectiveness. The even better news is that each of us on a personal level can make a difference. At Kew, you can pick a species to adopt and help save, or you can support Kew’s conservation work through the Kew Fund or by becoming a member, or even simply by visiting.
So, why not take a look at the Support Kew webpages, enjoy the compelling films, plan a visit, and find out more about why plants need your help and what you can do today. We can save species - but we need your support.
Oscar Wilde is often quoted as saying ‘Nowadays we know the price of everything and the value of nothing’. Why not prove him wrong?
- Plant profile of the suicide palm
- Read about Kew's discovery of the wild yam
- The Flora of Tropical East Africa
- Adopt a seed to save a species
- Read the Kew magazine article on FTEA
- Read the BBC article and see Henk Beentje launch the final part of the FTEA
1 comment on 'Every species counts'
There are some stunning sights at Kew at the moment but one almost stopped me in my tracks yesterday. Walking along the side of the Princess of Wales Conservatory I was confronted with a riot of Barbie pink flowers. These were not bedding plants however but a gorgeous example of Lagerstroemia ‘Muskogee’ or the Crape Myrtle tree. I took some quick snaps on my phone…
Kew's Crape Myrtle in full flower next the Princess of Wales Conservatory
The flowers attract lots of bees
I have to admit to not being familiar with this genus although it has been around in this country for a while apparently. On getting back to the office I hit the books…The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs says Lagerstroemia indica was introduced as far back as 1759 and is native to China and Korea. Members of the Lagerstroemia genus are native to the warm parts of Asia, the Pacific islands and Australia.
Kew’s beautifully proportioned tree does well in this part of the gardens as this spot is a real suntrap, and this tree needs good summer heat in order to flower well.
A bit of research
I took a look in New Trees by John Grimshaw and Ross Bayton, which reveals there are 55 species of Crape Myrtles, all with showy flowers and attractive bark. A tree the size of the one at Kew may be unusual as this book claims that in most places this species doesn’t get beyond ‘bush’ size. This specimen looked a good 10-12 ft high.
The website of the Missouri Botanical Garden states it should be grown in a well drained soil in full sun in a protected location, to maximise summer heat for a good display of flowers. It also says that ‘Muskogee’ is a cultivar between Lagerstroemia indica and L. fauriei developed as a mildew resistant hybrid by the National Arboretum in Washington DC. It was named Muskogee after a Native American Indian tribe. The genus name honours Magnus von Lagerstrom (1696 – 1759) a Swedish merchant and friend of ‘the father of botany’ Carl Linnaeus. It’s always good to have friends in high places if you want a plant named after you!
This specimen has a really beautiful pink and beige mottled bark on its multiple stems. The panicles of bright pink flowers are abuzz with all manner of bees. Its glossy leaves, which really set off the flowers, turn a stunning orange in autumn and the flowers give way to rounded seed capsules in autumn too.
All in all a real show-stopper!
For more on some of Kew’s stunning trees look out for the autumn issue of Kew magazine at the end of September.
Tags: Kew at home
1 comment on 'Pretty in pink'
Kew's enormous Olympic Rings - originally planted to mark 100 days to go until the beginning of the Games - have recently been replanted and are looking fabulous right now as we head into the second week of the competition. Visitors to Kew, and also those arriving overhead by plane to Heathrow, are thoroughly enjoying this colourful spectacle.
The Olympic Rings on the lawn outside the Orangery
One of the roundabouts near the Palm House has also caught the Olympic spirit with flowers boldly representing the Paralympic logo in a sea of white gravel.
Meet the record breakers
There's some jaw-dropping record breakers of the plant world to see too - you can visit the coastal redwoods in the Redwood Grove - this species is the tallest living thing on Earth! You can see fast-as-a-lightning-bolt Venus fly traps in the carnivorous plants area in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. There's a titan arum here too - one of the largest flowering structures in the world - growing to around 3 metres high.
The titan arum's flowering structure can reach epic proportions
The Princess of Wales Conservatory is a fabulous place to witness the variety of plant life - in the wonderful orchid display cases you can see some of the most beautiful and weirdest-looking flowers you will ever come across.
As well as enjoying the waterlilies here you can also head to the Waterlily House to see some of the largest leaves in the world (those of the giant waterlily) in the central pool, while in the display around the edges of the glasshouse there are some of the hottest chillies known to man.
In the Palm House you can see possibly the oldest pot plant in the world - the Eastern Cape giant cycad brought back from South Africa in 1775 by Kew's first plant hunter Francis Masson. Also in the Palm House is the coco de mer (or double coconut) - a palm from the Seychelles that produces the largest seed in the world.
You can also see some of the fastest growing plants in the Palm House. Check out the giant bamboo, which has a large wooden ruler next to it to show you just how unbelievably quickly it grows.
Coming up in the magazine...
In the magazine office we're currently putting together all the features and news for our autumn issue. One feature will be celebrating four of Kew's oldest trees known as the Old Lions, which mark 250 years in the Gardens this year. We'll be bringing you their statistics and some great images too.
Kew's Ginkgo biloba is 250 years old
So, even if you didn't get tickets for the London 2012 Olympic Games, come to Kew to share the excitement, see the Rings and marvel at some of the world's most amazing record breakers.
1 comment on 'Have you caught Olympic Fever?'
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
Christina accepts a Kew Publishing award at the Garden Media Guild awards in 2012.
Christina joined Kew in 1999 after finishing a BSc. degree in Plant Ecology and an Advanced National Certificate in Horticulture. After initially working as a horticulturist in Kew’s Arboretum and the Hardy Display section (on the Grass Garden) she went on to become Festivals Interpretation Officer between 2002-2008, helping Kew’s onsite visitors understand what makes Kew tick. In the meantime she completed an MA in Garden History, a subject that continues to be one of her passions.
Christina was short-listed for a Garden Writers Guild award in 2007 for one of her articles in Kew magazine, and is the author of Kew’s Big Trees, published in 2008. She became editor of Kew magazine in September 2008. “I see Kew magazine as a window on the world of Kew,” she says. “I hope between its pages the many facets of Kew’s work and the people who make it happen are revealed for all to see and encourage readers to continue to support Kew.”
Your iPad as a window on Kew: Thanks very much for your comment Louise, it's great to hear feedback. If anyone has any more feedba ... by: Christina
Your iPad as a window on Kew: The new app is brilliant. I can leave my magazine at my father in law's for him to read while I have ... by: Louise
Your iPad as a window on Kew: It appears we've had some technical difficulties with the Kew magazine app. If you have already down ... by: Christina
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