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.
As I write, South Africa have just started playing Mexico in the first game of the 2010 World Cup. All very exciting – especially as I drew South Africa in the office sweepstake so I have a vested interest! I’m not normally a football fan I have to say, but the fact that the World Cup is in South Africa really strikes a chord.
Celebrating the landscape of South Africa
Kew is celebrating this vibrant country in several ways this summer – Kew’s South Africa Landscape at the British Museum is just starting to come into its own now and we’ll be covering how this dramatic design was put together in the autumn issue of Kew magazine - from choosing the native plants and shipping them across oceans to installing them in the centre of London. The idea is to invite visitors to marvel at the country’s special biodiversity and be inspired as to why it is worth saving.
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership - Collecting seeds in Africa
If you’ve got your copy of the summer issue of Kew magazine, you’ll know that David Shipp travelled to Namaqualand in South Africa in order to find inspiration and plants for this year’s Palm House Parterre display at Kew. This is being installed right now! I passed the nursery yesterday and trays upon trays of bright orange, pink, blue and red flowers are waiting in the wings to give their star performances. I can’t wait to see it all finished. You can find the plant list and discover much more here.
Plant life in South Africa is under threat
South Africa is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots – packed with plant species found nowhere else on the planet, which are also under threat and need our help. There are more than 20,000 species in the Republic of South Africa, thousands of which are endemic, but nearly 400 species are classified as vulnerable or (critically) endangered.
Needless to say, some great achievements have been made since seed collecting and banking began in South Africa in 1996. A collection of more than 2,500 species has been conserved and documented at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, of which more than 80 per cent are rare, threatened or of particular use to man. And of these 2,500 species, over 1,600 are endemics. Take a look at our science and conservation pages to find out more about our work in this region.
Kew is involved in many projects across the whole of this diverse and botanically important continent and you can help too – why not adopt a seed and help these projects to save species? What a great way that would be to help celebrate this fabulous country at this time!
But in the meantime what do you reckon my chances of winning that sweepstake are?
- Christina -
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At the end of April I was lucky enough to go along to the opening of the South Africa Landscape at the British Museum. The weather wasn’t quite South African but there was plenty of colour, singing and fantastic plants to lift our spirits.
The impressive Mountain aloe (Aloe marlothii) in the South Africa Landscape at the British Museum
The newly planted Landscape looked superb in the evening light – full of bizarre, architectural species such as quiver trees, pachypodiums and cacti-like euphorbias, all surrounded by vibrant daisies. The Landscape has brought a piece of a revered biodiversity hotspot to the centre of London and is well worth a visit - especially now the weather is improving. Check out the plants in the design here and see photos of the build at Kew on Flickr.
The Landscape is a result of the ongoing collaboration between the British Museum and Kew and is the third successful showpiece to have been built on the West Lawn in recent years. We’ll be revealing just how it was put together in our autumn issue – so watch this space.
There is a real South African theme at Kew this year as well. The summer issue of Kew magazine (out this week) reveals the background to the design and planting of Kew’s Palm House Parterre, which will be in place from early June. David Shipp – a Kew horticulturist and the brains behind it all - travelled to Namaqualand (a botanical paradise north of Cape Town), to see the natural spectacle of a desert brought to life by winter rains – a flourish of orange, purple, lilac, red and white flowers (to mention but a few).
In the midst of raising 20,000 plants for the Parterre display, David talks us through his trip and how he got the ideas for his design this year. Find out more about the Parterre and the plant list here.
Spring flowers in Namaqualand
Our main theme for the summer issue is biodiversity of course and we have plenty for you to enjoy – from exploring how we conserve biodiversity on site at Kew and Wakehurst Place to spotting pollinators in the Gardens, as well as how Wakehurst is helping in a study on honeybees. There are a few tips for attracting bees and pollinators to your garden too. Check out the full contents here.
Our news pages include coverage of the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo – known as the Seed Cathedral. Designed by one of the UK’s most talented designers, Thomas Heatherwick, the Pavilion is both innovative design at its very best and a great way of showing the world the wonders of seeds and the work of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. There’ll be plenty more on this in our autumn issue as the Expo reaches its high point in September. Speaking of which, I’d better get commissioning.
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Do you have any comments on Kew magazine? Have you been to the Shanghai Expo? Why not let us know…
- Christina -
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It may only be the first week of March but the writing and designing of articles for the summer issue of Kew magazine is now in full swing. Biodiversity is, of course, our theme with 2010 being the International Year of Biodiversity (this is fairly easy as the conservation of biodiversity is one of Kew’s main aims).
We’ve got some great articles about how Kew’s work around the world is helping to conserve threatened plant species and habitats. We’ll be taking a look at how the fabulous Palm House parterre design is put together, from research to propagation to planting. There will be tips for encouraging biodiversity in your own garden, and I can also promise cute dormice.
We have a small but well-oiled machine of a team here that put the magazine together. This includes myself, who thinks up the ideas for the issue, commissions the articles and tries to pull it all together (while drinking endless cups of coffee), our designer who comes up with a new and interesting design for every feature and gathers fantastic images together, and our chief sub-editor who checks every fact, thinks up the intriguing titles and captions, and makes everything fit on the page so beautifully.
Every issue also goes before our editorial board – a group of very knowledgeable people at Kew who give up their time to share their wisdom (and partake in biscuits) to talk about what goes into the next magazine and what might interest you, the reader, most. We’re always knee-deep in the next issue before the current one comes out, and working one to two seasons ahead – that’s the confusing world of magazine publishing for you.
Speaking of which, the spring issue of Kew magazine hits the shelves on 3 March – I do hope you like it. There’s something for everyone – from clambering through jungles to find new species to taking a stroll through Kew’s Japanese cherries and wild flowers, we try to cover the huge range of Kew’s work and collections.
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February’s a strange month: you desperately want it to be spring but it keeps you in limbo for a few more weeks until the crocus and daffodils appear in any numbers. However, if you are craving a bit of colour and a way to kick off the celebrations of the International Year of Biodiversity you couldn’t do better than to hot-foot it down to the Princess of Wales Conservatory and Waterlily House at Kew where, right now, splashes of exotic colour are dripping from every corner – orchids of every shape and hue, vibrant bromeliads, bizarre Anthuriums. Together they make a truly wonderful sight. You might even spot the Chinese water dragon if it’s not too busy (although he’s a permanent fixture it has to be pointed out). I popped down to the Conservatory the other day for the press launch event of Tropical Extravaganza and it proved a very welcome break from staring at a computer screen! Here’s one of my (amateur) snaps of a slipper orchid…
The amazing plants of the tropics feature in the new spring issue of Kew magazine, which has just gone to press. We follow up on the story of how Kew’s botanists discover new plant species around the world (from tiny aquatic plants to enormous rainforest trees), and how Kew’s GIS team manage to map the vegetation of entire regions to help protect endangered species. Biodiversity is, of course, one of our main themes as its conservation is at the core of Kew’s mission.
There are some visual feasts including a tour through Kew’s Japanese cherry collection and a feature on the wild flowers that thrive in the Gardens. We also head Down Under, with a young team of horticulturists, to Tasmania as they trek through 'where the wild things are’ to gather seeds for the collections at Wakehurst and the Millennium Seed Bank. And we talk to Iain Parkinson on how he manages Wakehurst’s natural areas and native plants and animals. We have been busy!
It’s out on 3 March – we really hope you’ll like it.
Best I get on with the summer issue now!
Did you know that all the events, courses, lectures and tours at Kew and Wakehurst are listed together in Kew magazine?
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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.
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- 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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