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.
It's not long now and the winter issue of Kew magazine will be out, delivered to all the Friends of Kew and available, bright and fresh, on the stands in Kew's shops. When you see the stunning cover you'll know that one of the main articles is about those little gems of the plant world – alpines.
Massonia pustulata, Image: Richard Wilford
Alpines are the plants we can rely on to brighten the winter season. Kew's manager of alpine collections, Richard Wilford, is the author of a new book from Kew publishing – Alpines, from mountain to garden, which is a treasure trove of information about alpines from all corners of the globe. In the winter issue, Richard has written a feature for us on how many of the familiar alpine species were first discovered and picks eight of his favourites, which you could try at home too. The book and the feature are packed with fab images. There's also a special offer for Kew magazine readers – so do take a look.
Dionysia aretioides, Image: Richard Wilford
Whether you get hold of the book or not – why not come and enjoy the wonderful displays in the Davies Alpine House, Rock Garden and nearby Woodland Garden at Kew this winter? Many visitors make a bee-line for this area to see the wide variety of species – from stunners such as the many snowdrops, Pulsatilla, Erythronium and saxifrages, to the truly bizarre such as the Massonia and Arum species there. Do make time to head in that direction on your next visit.
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Yes, I'm proud to admit I'm now slightly obsessed with mushrooms, toadstools and all things fungi. All life depends upon them so I think we should ALL be interested in these amazing organisms.
We've commissioned our photographer to go out hunting with Kew's mycology experts for a feature for Kew magazine's next autumn issue, and I haven't been able to resist going on my own fungal forays too. The enormous range of sizes, shapes and colours is thrilling, and when I found some pristine bracket fungi the size of dinner plates in Richmond Park at the weekend I almost jumped for joy! (almost).
Fungi at Kew Gardens (Image: Paul Little)
Unfortunately I'm hopeless at putting a name to any of these species and therein hangs the warning. There have been plenty of stories on the television recently warning people against the advice of celebrity chefs to get out there and forage. Not only do you have little chance of finding something edible (only about one per cent of the UK's fungi are worth eating), but you are taking away key elements of a natural habitat if you pick them. There is also the fact that the amount of incidents of people being poisoned by picking wild mushrooms has apparently doubled in the last year.
So, unless you're on a guided fungal foray with a true expert, leave the fungi where they are – they are a joy for fungi-spotters such as me and vital for the insects and animals that need them, not to mention the fact that the future of the fungi itself depends on its spores being released from these truly wonderful fruiting bodies.
We'll be looking at fungi at Kew in next autumn's issue of Kew magazine – I hope you enjoy these 'taster' pics. Kew Gardens and Wakehurst run fascinating fungal forays each autumn – make a note to book early for next year as places are limited.
Have you spotted any intriguing fungi this year?
- Christina -
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Initially this is very depressing news, but when you begin to investigate how much work Kew staff are doing to research and conserve these species with partners around the world, there is more than a glimmer of hope.
We'll be carrying more on this story in the next issue of Kew magazine but do read as much as you can about this news now and do get involved – Kew needs everyone's support if it is to halt this decline and the risk to plant species. You can even sign up with BGCI's Plants for the Planet campaign, which they'll be taking to Conference of Parties meeting in Nagoya later this month.
We've been investigating the work of Kew's Herbarium staff for the next issue to mark both this news and the opening of the new wing of the Herbarium. This represents an enormous milestone in its history and is also great news for the future of plant science here. It's amazing to think that as the new wing is about to open 20,000 boxes of specimens are being moved into the state-of-the-art, climate-controlled new rooms. They will take up 6km worth of shelving and represent around 45,000 different species of plants!
I've charged our writers and journalists to investigate just why this new wing was needed, what treasures it holds, what new species it will soon be home to; also where in the world Kew's botanists get to in their search for knowledge of plants, and how they share it with others. We'll be starting the issue with an interview with the Keeper of the Herbarium, Professor David Mabberley.
Getting the in-depth story
Trying to decide what goes into an issue four to five months ahead of its publication date and attempt to keep that information current sometimes seems an uphill struggle, especially when, in this media-soaked world of fast-paced technology, sources such as the web can publish stories within minutes of a press release! But there is plenty of scope for us to investigate stories in-depth and bring you some fabulous images that can be kept for a much longer period than a webpage: many of our readers tell us they keep every issue, which is such a wonderful thing to hear.
Although we have covered aspects of the work of Herbarium staff in previous issues we knew that this winter we had to bring some special articles about their work and the future of the Herbarium at Kew. It's when you put an issue like this together you realise just how wide-ranging their work is – and this is just one department of Kew! From restoring and surveying habitats in the UK Overseas Territories to a 61-year project mapping the flora of tropical East Africa, to caring for some of the most valuable books in the world, we have tried to put together a flavour of the expertise and work that goes on in this building.
The autumn issue of Kew magazine is out now, the winter issue will be out on 1 December – watch this space.
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There have been some fabulous comments so far – thank you very much – and some interesting points on things you want to see more of and less of! We are reading all your comments and taking them seriously so if you haven't already done so please do get involved in shaping the Kew magazine of the future.
So far we've discovered that you love the behind-the-scenes features but some of you want to see 'more botany and fewer botanists'! Poor botanists! Do you agree with this?
Some people have requested to see more on how to grow plants, especially the unusual ones. Some of you would like more plant science overall although there is severe disagreement between you on whether we should make it easier to understand or include more scientific detail.
Many of you would like more on economic plants, more on botanical art and on history. Some of you have mentioned the wish for the return of some of the regular features that appeared a few years ago and we're certainly looking into that.
So as you can imagine there is going to be plenty for us to discuss in the magazine office over the next few months. You might not see immediate changes but this is all important information to help us create the magazine that you want over the next year and help us to get the message to everyone that plants matter.
We're interested in hearing from everyone – so spread the word – even if you've only picked up a single copy of Kew magazine. The survey is open until the end of October, and don't forget you can also bag yourself the prize of a copy of The Art of Plant Evolution by Dr Shirley Sherwood.
- Christina -
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There's been a big song and dance in the press recently about the latest World Expo opening in Shanghai. The UK Pavilion, christened the Seed Cathedral, was designed by renowned architect Thomas Heatherwick. It has won many accolades since its opening, including the coveted Lubetkin prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Artist impression of the UK's Seed Cathedral by Thomas Heatherwick
Discover Heatherwick's Seed Cathedral
Heatherwick's design is a wonderful concept, and how it was made real and constructed on site is truly amazing. We were so impressed here at Kew magazine, that we tracked Thomas down to ask him how it was done. We were particularly interested to find out why he took seeds and Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) as his inspiration to represent the UK. In the autumn issue of Kew magazine (out on 8 September) you can read our interview with Thomas in his London studio and see some of the wonderful images of the Pavilion by Wolfgang Stuppy (from the MSBP). The Expo has been a great opportunity to tell the world about the work of Kew's MSBP – over 45 million people have visited the Expo since it opened! If you get chance, do check out the wonderful website.
The autumn issue, with its cover image of the inside of the Pavilion, is packed with other features too. We explore how Kew reaches out beyond its walls to tell people why plants are so important, and how Kew staff are continually expanding the boundaries of our knowledge about plants.
From the Mediterranean to South Africa
We follow Kew's Tony Hall who has been seed collecting in the Mediterranean for eight years, tracking down botanical gems for Kew's Mediterranean Garden. The team who put Kew's South Africa Landscape together at the British Museum tell us how they traveled to South Africa to source the extraordinary quiver tree and trawled nurseries in the UK for bright bedding plants that have South African origins. They also tell us why they did this all in the name of communicating the importance of biodiversity.
We also meet Kew's exhibitions manager Laura Giuffrida who was responsible for the vastly successful Chihuly and Henry Moore exhibitions at Kew Gardens. We ask her just how she puts on these shows and what she's up to in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
I do hope you enjoy our latest issue. Remember to take our reader survey – it's open until the end of October. You could even win yourself a copy of The Art of Plant Evolution by Shirley Sherwood and WJ Kress!
- Christina -
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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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