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.
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.
Subscribe to Kew magazine here - it's just £20 a year! You can even get a e-copy for your iPad!
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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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There are several ways to get hold of your copy of Kew magazine, so there's no excuse not to support Kew’s mission and delve behind the scenes of the world's foremost botanic garden.
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Go to the Kew magazine page now to take our quick and easy to fill in survey. It only takes around five to ten minutes and will be invaluable to us in taking the magazine forward. We’re keen to keep the magazine relevant to you and appeal to as many of you as possible.
If you’re lucky you can even win one of our copies of The Art of Plant Evolution by WJ Kress and Shirley Sherwood, which accompanied the art exhibition of the same name in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at Kew. It is packed with pages of beautiful botanical artworks that you’ll treasure.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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One of our regular features on the magazine is a profile of a member of staff, which gives an insight into what people here get up to, how many projects they’re involved in and how they have got to where they are today. It’s a great peek behind-the–scenes.
Our journalist Gail Vines does a fabulous job of interviewing the intended ‘victim’ while the photographer has the unenviable job of trying to convey the personality and the work of the person in a single image.
Our regular photographer for these wonderful portraits is John Millar – whose images of the stars of industry, politics, sport and media you may have seen and wondered at in other publications. Kew magazine’s art editor, Hina, and John work together to find a suitable location and props that can bring the vital ingredients of a fabulous image together and then we all pray for the weather to hold.
For this year’s autumn issue we grabbed Kew’s exhibitions manager – Laura Giuffrida – who was responsible for the garden-wide exhibitions of Dale Chihuly and Henry Moore in recent years and has also overseen the new interpretation in the Marianne North Gallery and put together the exhibitions in the Nash Conservatory and the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art since its opening. We wanted to celebrate Laura’s achievements and her work and how she brings Kew’s art to the public.
So, last week, we headed out into the gardens for a photo shoot…
Lots of elements need to come together for a successful shot – location, light, colour, props, which add to the image rather than detract from it, and that magic moment when you know you’ve really captured someone. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of this process is getting the ‘model’ to relax! Most of us are used to quickly posing for a picture but we usually take a couple of hours to get the right shot for the magazine and this can take its toll on the cheek muscles!
For this shot we used a beautiful large frame (very kindly lent to us by Just Good Frames in Richmond) and also photographed Laura in the Marianne North Gallery.
It’s immensely important to us to effectively bring across Kew’s work in the magazine and Kew’s staff are arguably its biggest asset. Look out for the final shot we’ve chosen in the autumn issue – out on 8 September. We hope you like it – remember to let us know what you think.
Find out how to get your copy of Kew magazine here.
Our reader survey will be going live online in August - go to the Kew magazine homepage to tell us what you think of Kew magazine.
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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.”
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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