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.
What a winter we’ve had so far. Kew has been looking utterly magical this past fortnight with all the snow that has fallen. I love heading out for a walk at lunchtimes, crunching through the untainted snow and perhaps taking a trip to the Davies Alpine House where beautiful gem-like alpines are putting on a show despite the weather. Their sheer resilience always cheers me up!
The snowdrops are always worth looking forward to on the Rock Garden as well, and should all start flowering soon. Despite this recent cold snap, studies at Kew on the flowering times of plants have shown that they are bursting bud earlier as the years pass. Some spring-flowering plants are around two weeks earlier than they were a couple of decades ago.
Snowdrops are those hardy harbingers of spring that are a delight to behold. I was amazed to hear just how many snowdrops are actually farmed and harvested in Europe for the horticultural trade – Georgia harvests 15 million bulbs of Galanthus woronowii every year. Richard Wilford, manager of the hardy collections at Kew (which includes the Rock Garden) recently travelled to Georgia to help with surveys of the populations of this species in the wild, and on farms, in order to help advise on the official trade of this beautiful, delicate-looking alpine. Richard recounts his travels in the winter issue of Kew magazine, which is on sale until 3 March.
You’ll be able to see Galanthus woronowii on the Rock Garden in several locations come February, as well as many other snowdrop species. At Kew's sister garden, Wakehurst, there is a beautiful mass planting of G.nivalis near the visitor centre that is definitely worth visiting. I’ve added a picture here of G. elwesii in the snow that I took on 13 January.
- You can read more about Galanthus elwesii on our Kew Today page by clicking here.
- Subscribe to Kew magazine at KewBooks or ExactEditions.
- If you become a Premier Friend, and support Kew’s work, you receive Kew magazine absolutely free.
- Christina -
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Yesterday the Kew magazine team donned their glad-rags and sneaked – Cinderella-like – out of the office to the glittering Garden Media Guild Awards dinner. These are the Oscars of the garden media world for books, magazines, radio, TV and web. All the celebs of gardening were there – Mr T, Joe Swift, Toby Buckland, Dan Pearson, James Wong, Cleve West, James Alexander-Sinclair, and even John Craven from Countryfile to name but a few. I’m all for a bit of celeb-spotting, so it was great fun.
Professor Angela McFarlane accepts the Garden Media Guild's best wishes on Kew 250th anniversary at the Awards on Thursday night
This year Kew Publishing were finalists in the reference book of the year category for New Trees: Recent Introductions to Cultivation and the Pocket Guide to Rhododendron Species, which was fantastic. But for me, the best news of the night was that Kew won the Young Gardener Initiative of the Year award for the Great Plant Hunt. Fantastic! The judges said, and I quote:
‘To come up with a project that fits in with a community and/or a school curriculum is not easy and, in order to stand the test of time and change lives, needs incredible commitment.’
This is a wonderful accolade and congratulations must go to all the Great Plant Hunt Team who worked so hard to create the materials and get all those treasure chests out to every primary school in Britain! This means that thanks to Kew and the Wellcome Trust, over half a million children are getting to know why plants are important for our future. Hurrah!
On a related note, I read the other day that in some parts of the country over 30% of people thought biodiversity was a washing powder! Clearly there is plenty for us still to do, to get the message out there about the importance of plants for life. And with climate change talks in the spotlight at Copenhagen this week, it's becoming clear we need to act now to protect life on Earth, or we’ll be reaping the consequences sooner than we think. We will certainly be aiming to get these kind of messages across in Kew magazine throughout 2010 and beyond.
Although Kew magazine didn't win anything this year, we were fortunate enough to win two awards last year (the Environmental Writing Award and Features Photographer of the Year) so I guess we can’t complain too much – shouldn’t be greedy! The Guild were also kind enough to wish Kew Happy 250th Birthday too - so a good night was had by all.
The spring issue is in full editing/ design mode at the moment so today it is back to the desk to wear out a few more red pens! After all we’ve got next year’s awards to aim for now.
You can buy New Trees: Recent Introductions to Cultivation (by John Grimshaw and Ross Bayton) and Pocket Guide to Rhododendron Species - based on the descriptions of H.H. Davidian (by J.F. McQuire and M.L.A. Robinson) at the Kew shop onsite or online or via www.kewbooks.com
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November has truly blown in but it’s still worth venturing to Kew and Wakehurst between the showers to see the last of the autumn colour. The tulip trees and dawn redwoods near the Palm House Pond at Kew have been fabulous this year. As I write this we’ve just sent the winter issue of Kew magazine off to press, so I’ve finally allowed the team out for a breath of fresh air and a chocolate brownie. It’s always a strange time when the final pages go – a mixture of anticipation and slight nervousness, and an all-too-brief lull in proceedings while you wait for the fully formed final product to arrive.
The winter issue has a few articles to help round off Kew’s 250th anniversary year, including a feature by garden historian Andrea Wulf on the shared history of Kew and the Royal Society. The two organisations have a pleated past and both are keen to promote science to as many people as possible. Kew’s director, Professor Stephen Hopper, will give a lecture at the Royal Society on 1 December about the importance of botany and the long association between the two institutions, as the final instalment in Kew’s 250th anniversary lecture series. Click here for details and why not go along – entry is free.
Speaking of lectures – I went to a fantastic one last week on the BBC series Last Chance to See. Stephen Fry spoke extremely eloquently (as always) on the need for the conservation of biodiversity and habitats around the world. We’ll be looking very closely at this topic in 2010 – I’m elbow-deep in planning at this very moment. The 25 November will be the UK launch date for the International Year of Biodiversity and Kew will be playing a large part so watch this space.
If you want to get involved in the final fling of Kew’s 250th anniversary, or simply take time to enjoy the season, come along to some of the tours & walks, lectures and exhibitions that are on offer. See the autumn issue of Kew magazine or check out the details online in our What's On section. Our sub-editor, Jean, took this fantastic image (above) on one of Kew’s recent photography courses.
Stephen Hopper presents his lecture Science Not Stamp Collecting – the importance of botany from 1759 to 2059 at the Royal Society on 1 December at 6.30pm. Entry is free. The lecture will also be available online, either live on the night or from 4 December. Click here for details.
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There has been a fantastic amount of press this week around Kew’s latest greatest bit of news – that the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) has succeeded in its first goal of collecting the seeds of ten per cent of the world’s flowering plants.
I loved the fact that the 24,200th seed to be banked was that of a pink banana! Everyone can relate to that and it’s sure to raise a smile. It was the Yunnan banana to be precise – Musa itinerans – and it’s a perfect example of why the MSBP is so important.
This banana is a food source for wildlife including the Asian elephant, while the flowers and stems are used in certain Chinese dishes. As we know, the banana beloved of our supermarket shelves is under threat from several viruses, so protecting wild banana species could help to breed disease resistance into one of the world's favourite fruits.
Sadly, there is the familiar story that the habitat of Musa itinerans is under threat, so saving the seeds now could prove vital for the survival of this species. Many of the seeds that the MSBP have prioritised are from threatened habitats and of tropical crop species that humanity needs.
Behind the scenes
In the autumn issue of Kew magazine we celebrated the achievement of the ten per cent milestone, and went behind the scenes with one of the busiest teams at the seed bank – the curation staff – the people who actually bank the seed, and show just what a seed has to go through to make it to the freezing vaults beneath Wakehurst. Take a look.
Kew magazine has a regular feature (called cuttings) of some of the latest plant science stories from around the world, in the autumn issue we featured some great seedy stories, including how scientists at the MSBP have compared the life spans of 195 wild plant species from a variety of habitats to figure out why certain types of seeds live longer than others. This is important for all seed banks as species known to be short-lived need to be tested on a more frequent basis to see if they are still viable. There's little point storing dead seeds after all!
On the other side of the world meanwhile, a unique Australian species with the wonderful name of shining nematolepsis (Nematolepsis wilsonii) has been saved thanks to its seeds being stored in the MSB and Victoria Conservation Seedbank. All 500 known trees were destroyed in the devastating bush fires of 2008, but thanks to seed collecting some 150 new trees have been propagated and reintroduced to nearby intact bushland areas.
Hope is seed-shaped
As one of the world’s most ambitious conservation projects, the MSBP holds at its heart that in a seed there is a world of opportunity.
If you want to get more involved why not adopt a seed to save a species with Kew’s new campaign? It will help us achieve the next great target – 25 per cent of the world's plants' seeds saved by 2020.
Could make a fabulously different Christmas present for someone?
All images copyright of RBG Kew
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One of the huge benefits of being editor of Kew magazine – if you don't know Kew magazine by the way, take a look – is the wonderful stories about Kew’s work that land on your desk. Stories that not only take you by surprise but ones that really inspire you.
Kew magazine is quarterly but we could fill up a monthly magazine with the amount of tales of great work that staff do here (thank goodness for this new website with all the space for these stories online now).
One such incident happened while I was editing a piece about meadow conservation at Wakehurst Place for our summer issue when a phone call came through from our press office – did I know that not only was Paul Smith, Head of the Millennium Seed Bank Project going to Botswana to meet seed collectors out there but they would also be opening a new community garden near Gabarone (home of the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency). Not only this but reporters from the BBC and The Observer would be accompanying Paul. The more I found out about the work in Botswana and about this new community garden the more I knew we had to cover this story in the magazine to show how Kew has such a global reach to help people around the world.
The garden (being planted in the image here) is only the second to be created in Botswana with the help of the Useful Plants Project – a partnership project run as part of the work of the MSBP. It is being filled with useful, edible and medicinal plants that will help the local village thrive and mean that they will not have to risk foraging for wild plants – a risk to both their lives (lion attacks – I kid you not) as well as a risk to the wild populations of native plant species. Gardening in this way – ‘allotmenteering’ almost – is a new thing in Botswana. People really know their plants but they harvest them from the wild (see the image below of the village chief) rather than grow them. With help from the MSBP staff, villagers now have all the information necessary to grow what they need successfully. Something to think about next time you are watering your carrots down at your own plot.
Richard Scrase, who went on the trip (and took the images you can see on this page), and produced a programme for the BBC World Service about his experience, has now written an excellent piece for us on this topic for the autumn issue of Kew magazine with some wonderfully atmospheric images of the Kalahari, the people and the plants. So look out for the issue - it's available from 9 September. You can buy Kew magazine in the Kew and Wakehurst Place shops, via kewbooks, or by becoming a Friend of Kew.
Keep your eyes peeled on this website too for more on the MSBP this autumn – some great stories are coming your way.
Images are copyright of Richard Scrase.
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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.”
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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