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.
This year has so far proved to be a year for talking about restoration. Not long ago we described the fundraising campaign for the restoration of the Temperate House, and Kew’s new restoration ecology programme (winter issue 2011) but since then we’ve been preparing features for Kew magazine on the restoration of the Georgian kitchens at Kew by Historic Royal Palaces, the restoration of Westwood Lake at Wakehurst, as well as the work by Kew botanists and Kew’s GIS team in helping to restore an expanse of Sumatran rainforest. All very different projects, and all extremely interesting.
The Kew Palace Georgian kitchens have been virtually untouched since the mid 1800s
Going behind the scenes
In the summer issue of Kew magazine (out 30 May) we go behind the scenes with these last three projects to reveal how they were achieved and why they are all so important – be it to our heritage, protecting water resources or protecting native species and habitats. The Georgian royal kitchens, next to Kew Palace, have a fascinating tale of discovery, conservation and presentation to tell. I was lucky enough to head to the kitchens for a tour on Tuesday and experience them come to life again as several fully costumed chefs cooked a variety of delicious Georgian dishes and filled the air with enticing smells, as well as creating stunning frosted fruit centrepieces. Be sure to come along and discover the royal kitchens and Kew’s history this summer. You can find out much more online and even watch Georgian cooking lessons on Youtube.
The Georgian kitchens have just been restored and are being brought back to life
Kew's new exhibition
Alongside these fascinating stories, which have required some pretty last minute photoshoots, we have been following the progress of the installation of the David Nash exhibition – David Nash at Kew: A Natural Gallery. Award-winning writer Ambra Edwards met up with David Nash to find out more about his background, his philosophy, his plans at Kew and the new work he’s creating in his Wood Quarry (or outdoor studio). We hope you’ll enjoy the article and the exhibition – it will be changing over the course of Nash’s year at Kew so will be well worth a few visits through the seasons. Our What’s On pages in the magazine list all the events, talks, tours and courses organised around the exhibition so be sure to check them out when you get your copy.
Overlap by David Nash - one of many sculptures now in the Temperate House
We had a great response to the new design of Kew magazine, so thank you all for your kind messages, encouragement and constructive comments. We aim to keep bringing you the best stories from Kew and Wakehurst to help you get the most from supporting Kew.
- Christina -
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The past few months have, by turns, been exciting, nerve-wracking, tense and very busy. This is not a comment on my family Christmas and New Year but rather the fact that as a team we have been completely redesigning Kew magazine. We’ve spent the past few months working to make the magazine better for you - the readers - as well as making it serve Kew better too. The past week has been particularly eventful as we’ve just sent all our final files off to press.
The new design is clean, sleek and contemporary and now looks very much a part of Kew. Our designer has done sterling work to meet our very finicky standards, and hasn’t lost his rag once (well, not that I know of anyway). We’ve still got all our great features and columns, news pages and wonderful photography. We’re also being that bit more sustainable and will be switching to FSC paper (rather than PEFC paper as now), and we still have our degradable packaging.
You may have heard that Kew’s membership has been changing so this seemed the best time to also bring Kew magazine bang up to date and help welcome in all our new members.
The new look Kew magazine - spring 2012
Value for money
Another big change is that we’re now only publishing three times a year – in spring, summer and autumn. We know that we can bring you plenty of great stories in three issues, while the money that would have contributed to the fourth issue will be used directly by the Kew Foundation for vital Kew projects. That means more of your membership or subscription money goes directly to Kew’s work.
We hope to make more of our pages on the web so we do hope you’ll keep in touch with us here in between issues. Kew magazine will now come out in March, June and October.
What’s in the spring issue?
In the spring issue we’ve got some great behind-the-scenes features. We take a look at the wonderful range of Narcissus at Kew and give you some tips on how to grow them in your garden. We meet up with Sir David Attenborough as he finishes filming at Kew for the new 3D TV series by Atlantic Productions (for Sky 3D). He talks to us about how he thinks the new series will inspire people everywhere about the wonders of plants.
We also head into the steamy forests of Ecuador to find some very peculiar mushroom-mimicking orchids that specialise in tricking their pollinators. And, as always, we bring you the best of the International Garden Photographer of the Year – at Kew from March until early April.
Kew magazine’s purpose, as ever, is to bring you the best and most interesting stories about what’s going on at Kew – the science and conservation, the collections, the archives, meeting people behind the scenes, exploring the exhibitions and festivals, and most of all, enjoying the wonderful plants that grow at Kew and Wakehurst.
We hope you’ll like the new design, the spring issue is out on 9 March.
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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the day Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team reached the South Pole, only to find that the rival Norwegian team, led by Roald Amundsen, had got there before them, and not just by a few days but by over a month.
Captain Scott writing in his cabin
It must be the world’s largest understatement to say they must have been disappointed. The near super-human effort involved in getting there all for naught. But was it? Many forget that this was not simply a race for the Pole. For Scott this time in Antarctica had always been about science and thankfully many authors and commentators now bring this to the fore and recognise his dedication to this element of the expedition.
Letter from Scott to Hooker
It was on this subject that Captain Scott wrote to Sir Joseph Hooker when he was planning his first trip to Antarctica in 1901 on the Discovery. Until I saw the letter in the exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art I had no idea that the two men had corresponded, but there it was – Scott’s letter to Hooker thanking him for his encouragement on his pursuit of science and the idea of setting up balloon experiments.
The letter dated 21 May 1901 reads: ‘It was your suggestion and the great weight of your practical experience alone that caused me to consider a balloon experiment as a practical possibility. Thank you very much for your generous support. I hope we shall manage to realise our wish.’
Scott's letter to Hooker currently displayed in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens
Joseph Hooker - Antarctic botanist
Hooker was of course, despite his much greater age at the time of this letter (he was 83), an experienced man in terms of Antarctica. He was there, on HMS Erebus, on Captain Clark Ross’s four-year southern ocean expedition (1839-1843). It is from that expedition that so many places in Antarctica take their names – McMurdo Sound, Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, the Ross Ice Shelf, to name a few.
As we all know, despite Scott’s great wealth of experience and his dedication, his second expedition on the Terra Nova (1910-1913) ended with all five of Scott’s Pole team dead only 18 km from a refuelling station. But with them they had scientific specimens and drawings, ones they had stopped to collect on the arduous journey back. And, of course, others survived with their completed experiments, measurements and specimens, including Apsley Cherry-Garrard and the famous emperor penguin eggs.
It is in fact for this we should remember Scott and all his team today, for it is this legacy that has had the most impact on Antarctica and its history. As the famous words, from Tennyson, on their memorial read: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’. They speak for all scientists as well as polar explorers.
- Christina -
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It came as a bit of a surprise, but a very welcome and lovely one. Every year Kew magazine enters the Garden Media Guild Awards - or the Garden 'Oscars' - and we have been very fortunate in recent years to get several finalist places, mainly in the Environmental category for features on Kew's conservation work. This year however our luck was in!
Editor Christina Harrison accepts the award on behalf of Gail Vines for her article in Kew magazine
And the first prize goes to...
At a star-studded event complete with many TV gardening presenters and respected authors and photographers, Kew magazine won the first award of the evening - the 'Plants and Well Being' category - for a feature showing how plants are of benefit to people. The piece in question was by one of our best regular contributors, Gail Vines, who wrote a wonderful article about the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership's MGU Useful Plants Project, called Growing Your Own.
This project helps communities in Africa and Mexico to grow the plants they want in community gardens. This helps local people in their daily lives and also helps to conserve the plants they would otherwise have to take from the wild. Some species are particularly hard to germinate or propagate and Kew's expertise provides the answers and practical support.
In the finals
Kew magazine also received a finalist place in the same category for Stephen Anderton's article, Flower Power at Chelsea, on Kew's involvement in The Times Eureka Garden at the 2011 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which promoted the beauty of useful plants.
In the Environmental category we also bagged a finalist place for Andrew Jackson's Little things mean a lot. Andy, who is head of Wakehurst Place, writes for the magazine in his regular column, Wakehurst View, but in this instance he took readers to the Francis Rose reserve at Wakehurst - the first reserve for lower plants or 'cryptogams'. He explained their importance, conservation and just why they need a reserve.
It was a fantastic day at the awards, and I hope all our readers agree that our hard working writers deserve such recognition. Kew magazine is dedicated to bringing plant conservation issues, plant science and horticulture to our readers and supporters, and spreading the word about their importance. Receiving such awards really helps us to promote Kew's work, so we feel like winners all round!
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Living not far from Kew Gardens and Richmond Park, I have to admit to being lucky, as I can easily escape from the busy streets of west London. One of the things I enjoy most when walking in these areas is coming across plants and fungi that I’ve never seen before. Last week I spotted a large zoned rosette fungus (Podoscypha multizonata) in the Park and have since learned there’s an even bigger one in Kew under an ash tree. I am determined to hunt it out. See Tim Entwisle's blog Talking Plants - there's a great picture of it there!
If, like me, you love to spot fungi why not take a look at our feature in the latest Kew magazine about the amazing range you can discover in Kew’s grounds. There is a vast array of colours, shapes and sizes and they are all intriguing. You can also read our fascinating interview with Kew's mycology expert Dr Brian Spooner, about how he became interested in this field.
Earthstar fungus at Kew
One Kew specimen, Rigidoporus ulmarius, now sadly thought lost, earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records in 1995 for being the largest fungal fruiting body on Earth (at 4.8 metres in circumference)! But fear not – around 2,750 other species have been spotted here, so you’ll definitely see some if you come along on your own fungal foray. You’re especially likely to spot fresh mushrooms a couple of days after a good rain shower, and by looking in mulched flowerbeds and in Kew’s Natural Areas at the southern end of the Gardens.
Rigidoporus ulmarius was once the largest fruiting body on Earth!
The amazing fungarium
Kew’s work with fungi dates back many years and there is a ‘fungarium’ collection that houses 1.25 million specimens here. Britain has around 13,000 species of fungi (compared to 2,100 species of native flowering plants and ferns) but the overall total number is unknown. It is thought that 90 per cent are still yet to be discovered. A mind-boggling thought.
Kew also works with Natural England and with other organisations including the University of Aberystwyth on research projects. One aims to discover how many waxcap species exist in Britain, in order to determine how best to conserve them.
- You can find out much more by following the links on the Kew magazine page.
- Please do not pick fungi from the wild – leave them to disperse their spores naturally and be appreciated by others.
- Christina -
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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.”
The Wallace Connection: What a great article with great links! Fascinated, I read and listened to all of them!. by: Sue Webster
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
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