13 May 2021
Meet the stars of Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom
Get to know some of our wonderful horticulturists from the new TV series.
From winter to autumn, Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom delves behind the scenes to show you what makes our gardens so special.
The new Channel 5 documentary series follows our expert staff at both our gardens at Kew and Wakehurst, our wild botanic garden in Sussex, in the unique and challenging year of 2020.
You'll discover our ground-breaking science, horticultural secrets and amazing living collections, one of the most diverse plant collections in the world.
Here's your chance to learn more about some of the stars of Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom…
Botanical Horticulturist, Palm House and Waterlily House
What was the best bit about taking part in the documentary? Sharing our hard work, feeling hopeful and proud in this challenging time.
What part of your daily routine did the camera crew follow? Waterlily House planning and maintenance, giant waterlily care and pollination, watering a tropical glasshouse in the summer, and winter pruning in the Palm House.
Tell us about your typical day. From 8am to 10am I'm watering in the Palm House and getting ready to open to the public. Then it's teamwork, project work; new planting, pruning, general maintenance, glass and path cleaning, pest control, propagation planning, training students and apprentices, pollination and seed harvest, collection and display improvement planning. I normally finish at 4pm but it's later if I'm on duty to close the glasshouses in the summer.
What is one fun fact we don’t know about you? I have a twin brother and we were born in Paris in 'Rue des Plantes' – Street of the Plants. One of my summer jobs was to act and entertain visitors in a giant sunflower maze.
How long have you been at Kew? Eight years.
How did you get to where you are today at Kew? I started as an intern, then became a trainee, then a student and now a member of staff for the last three years.
What did you want to be when you were a child? Have you followed your dreams? I wanted to be a florist when I was a child. I then pursued the wish to mix science and art together which I found possible in botanical horticulture.
What’s been your best moment at Kew? Completing the Kew Diploma, being trained by Dave Cooke in the Palm House and helping out with the replanting of the Temperate House to complete its restoration.
What is your favourite plant? They are all so wonderful! I discover a new favourite every month. I love the Lotus growing in the Waterlily House with their serene beauty. The Johannesteijsmannia altifrons palm displayed in a pot in the Palm House is magnificent. I like the abstract sun-shaped intricate flower of the Australian native guava, Eupomatia laurina.
Rock Garden, Alpine and Aquatics Supervisor
What was the best bit about taking part in the documentary? Talking about things we are passionate about, and sharing this with interested people.
Did you enjoy being filmed? Never do, but pleased afterwards. Have learned to care less and just try my best.
Tell us about your typical day. Varied and not long enough! Always a pleasure to come to work through the Gardens and see things developing.
What is one fun fact we don’t know about you? I used to pick up golf balls on a driving range for a living.
How long have you been at Kew? Seven years in total in two shifts (three as a student, four as staff).
How did you get to where you are today at Kew? Sheer blind luck.
What did you want to be when you were a child? Have you followed your dreams? I have something I did at school when I was very young at home where I said ‘birdwatcher’ as my chosen career path, so in the right area. Plants are easier to photograph.
What’s been your best moment at Kew? Winning a Gold Medal for Kew at the Chelsea Flower Show, having designed and built the thing with really clever colleagues on six weeks' notice.
What is your favourite plant? This week it is Iris planifolia. Next week it will be something else.
Manager of Aboriculture
What was the best bit about taking part in the documentary? Being given the chance to show how we manage the trees at Kew.
Did you enjoy being filmed? It was fun to do once we all became used to it!
What part of your daily routine did the camera crew follow? The crew followed the team on some interesting jobs with a good mix of the team's routine work which we carry out throughout the year.
Tell us about your typical day. A typical day for me is to have a morning chat with the team before they leave the workshop and discuss the plans for the day. Once the team have left the workshop, it's time to catch up on my many emails, then look at the tree inspection schedule to organise my day around meetings and tree inspection deadlines. There is always something going on at Kew, projects and events, and an arborist is often needed!
What is one fun fact we don’t know about you? I have an obsession with chasing big carp, so when life allows I can be found at a lake which I am targeting.
How long have you been at Kew? I have been at Kew now for eight years.
How did you get to where you are today at Kew? On leaving school I went to Sparsholt College in Hampshire to do a National Certificate in Arboriculture, and on completion of my course I started my career as a climbing arborist (tree surgeon). I worked for many years in the domestic and commercial side of the industry which allowed me to gain a wealth of experience over that 12 years. I then started my career at Kew in spring 2012 as a team leader and climber. By January of 2013 I was promoted to Manager of Arboriculture which takes us up to now.
What did you want to be when you were a child? Have you followed your dreams? My father was a tree surgeon and from a young age I used to go and watch him climb trees. At tea times my father used to let me sit in his harness and swing around which was great fun for a youngster! This is where my obsession with trees and the tree industry was first ignited. From that moment I became obsessed with becoming a tree surgeon. As I went through my teens my dad taught me the basics in tying knots and how to use a Prusik knot to climb trees. I adored climbing and learning the techniques needed to do the best job.
I guess I am one of the lucky few people who can honestly say yes I have managed to follow my childhood dreams and then exceed them in many ways by managing the incredible trees in Kew's Arboretum. Trees that are special in so many ways including historically and scientifically.
What’s been your best moment at Kew? Being given the chance to go plant collecting in Japan.
What is your favourite plant? It has to be the chestnut-leaved oak (Quercus castaneifolia), as when I was starting my career at Kew as a climbing arborist, it was a tree I was in awe of with its size and structure.
Botanical Horticulturist, Kitchen Garden
What was the best bit about taking part in the documentary? The crew were great fun, and taking part in the documentary makes you reflect on your work and remember how enjoyable it is.
What part of your daily routine did the camera crew follow? Seasonal planting in the Kitchen Garden and harvesting for our chefs at Kew.
Tell us about your typical day. It changes seasonally, but in spring, summer and autumn a general day would start with watering, then sowing seeds, planting out or harvesting are done as the first job. The rest of the day is general maintenance such as weeding, mowing and tending to the crops.
What is one fun fact we don’t know about you? I used to play guitar in a band.
How long have you been at Kew? Three years.
How did you get to where you are today at Kew? My previous career was as a teacher, then I re-trained in horticulture. After my trainee year, I worked as the Kitchen Gardener at a historic property called Myddelton House Gardens in North London. From there, I came to work at Kew.
What’s been your best moment at Kew? Too many, but working with the chefs is very rewarding, especially events such as the Food Forever event.
What is your favourite plant? French beans – easy and tasty.
What was the best bit about taking part in the documentary? Sharing what we do on a day-to-day basis with a very wide audience outside of Kew. I hope it can build up even more support for the work that we do here and around the world.
Did you enjoy being filmed? Not particularly but I understand it is part of the job and I try to focus on the positives rather than the nerves and apprehension of talking to a camera. If it helps to promote what we do then it will have been worth it!
What part of your daily routine did the camera crew follow? Numerous different things. Early in the year it was mostly about how we plan and manage aspects of the orchid festival including the build and actual running of the festival. This included making sure team members had all the supplies required to build the festival, checking how the build was going, making changes where required, dealing with requests from staff, visitors and other colleagues/stakeholders, and giving praise when a job has been well done.
Later in the year, we spoke about some of my other responsibilities as Conservatories Manager, notably about managing the teams in both the Palm House and Temperate House.
Tell us about your typical day. No day is typical, they change all the time and that’s one of the things I like about the role.
What is one fun fact we don’t know about you? I have a deep affection for Jamaican music (and cuisine for that matter!) including ska, rocksteady, reggae, lovers rock and early dancehall. My two-year-old already knows the lyrics to a few songs, including Rudi Got Married by Laurel Aitken. Music is often playing in our home and other genres include punk rock, hip hop, electro, RnB, country and more.
How long have you been at Kew? Since September 2005, so just over 15 years.
How did you get to where you are today at Kew? No secret really: hard work and making the most of opportunities when they arise. Plants and the natural world are not just part of my job, they are also a passion. Earlier on in my career I would spend hours every day trying to learn about new plants and habitats to become a better horticulturist. That has slowed down a bit since having a child but I still look up new plants I come across when I get a moment.
What did you want to be when you were a child? Have you followed your dreams? Many different things including a mahout, steam engine driver, Lego set designer and stealth bomber pilot – so not quite how my career panned out.
What’s been your best moment at Kew? There have been many but meeting the woman who would become my wife has to be the best.
What is your favourite plant? It used to be Vriesea splendens but I think it is now called Lutheria splendens after the great Harry Luther, the Bromeliad nomenclature king. He sadly passed away a number of years ago but I was lucky enough to meet him while volunteering in the USA a year or so before I started at Kew.
Lutheria splendens is an epiphytic Bromeliad from northern South America with leaves marked with black and a bright red inflorescence. It was one of the first Bromeliads brought into cultivation in the 1770s and remains popular as a houseplant to this day. I bought one many years ago and it is one of the plants that set me off on my horticultural career.
Kew Gardens: A Year in Bloom airs from Thursday 13 May at 8pm on Channel 5 for four consecutive weeks.