14th June 2020

One of my favourite greenspaces is Kew Gardens. Well, you may say, that comes as no surprise as I am well known for my love of plants! Our greenspaces are gradually being unlocked and even the National Trust and Kew are letting people return using booking systems. Even though we all have to be careful about distancing it is great news that we can go back to some of our favourite places.

I have been visiting Kew since I was a biology student in London and in so many ways it is the best place to learn about how our urban greenspaces could be like. Along with its wilder sister site, Wakehurst, you can find so many of the features we want to have in our own small and more modest greenspaces. Great plant collections, woodland, beautiful wildflower meadows areas of park for play and relaxation, and fabulous boarders of annuals and perennials, without even mentioning the great glasshouses of Kew. The temperate house reopened in 2018 and I have managed to visit it a couple of times, despite the long train journey, it is well worth seeing.

As I said, I have a long connection with Kew. Early in my career I was involved briefly with a conservation project to protect Monkey Orchids; and yes the flowers do resemble monkeys! More recently, I have done my small part to help a plant from Australia. The Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants which dates back in the fossil record to the Jurassic times of the dinosaurs 200m years ago. It was presumed to be extinct but in 1994 three explorers looking at canyons in the mountains close to Sydney found a stand of around 200 unknown trees. After some extensive investigation, involving Kew, they were identified and named Wollemi Pines after the place where they were found. In fact, they are not pines but a unique species more closely related to Araucaria. There is even a fascinating book telling the story of their discovery!

A major conservation effort has resulted with the tree being grown by enthusiasts all over the world. It has its own web site, and despite damage by a helicopter, threats from disease and the danger of the Australian bush fires these beautiful and rare trees are thriving.

Kew has been selling them as part of this conservation effort and a couple of years ago I was given my own Wollemi Pine for Christmas which is in a pot in my garden. The efforts we make to protect our environment are many and varied and even if we can’t get out very much we can still do our bit.

I appreciate that my Wollemi is not native to the UK but it is one plant that will go with me wherever I live!

Have a lovely week and stay safe.
Simon

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