A tropical farewell

My very last Fellowship placement took me southwest, to the gardens of Eden and beyond

Eden Project

watering the massive plants in the Tropical biome

A busy two weeks at the Eden Project saw me whizzing through the departments. In the tropical biome we spent a lot of time watering and weeding, as well as conducting tree health surveys for some of the original plantings going back to 2000. 

Working in the Mediterranean biome I helped to replant the Californian wildflower meadow as well as crops such as aubergines and chillies.

Planting aubergines in the Mediterranean biomeDuring my time with the Outdoor Team I helped with lots of weeding, particularly the soon-to-be Kniphofia National Plant Collection, digging potatoes from the Cornish Crops section and planting Primula viallii in the 'Myths and Legends' area.

In the Outer Estates team we spent the day on arboriculture, lifting tree canopies in the parking lots. While in the nursery I spent time repotting lavender, cleaning up scale-infested tea plants and repotting bananas - not your average day in a plant nursery.

Eden's mission for the masses

Magnolia delavayiHome to the biggest covered jungle in the world, the Eden Project, with its impressive biomes and extensive outdoor gardens, could easily be called the 8th wonder of the modern world. Nowhere else in the world can such tender species be grown to maturity, in proximity with plants from all over the tropics. It truly feels like a jungle, and to the horticulturist it is a magical feeling to wander through such a unique “forest”.

However, Eden’s target audience isn’t horticulturally minded at all. Rather the interpretation at Eden is set up to engage people from all backgrounds to reflect on the extent to which we rely on plants for all our modern conveniences. Using mock banana and oil palm plantations, rubber tree tapping demonstrations, a working vineyard, and crops growing outside to provide the educational focus for which Eden has become renowned. It is so much more than a garden, and the role it takes in making people aware of the fragility of our environment and the impact climate change could have on our lives, through the plants it affects, is praiseworthy. It left me thinking more about the purpose of gardens, and the other ways they can fulfill their role of plant conservation.

Gardens tour

My last week of the Fellowship year was spent, with the Kew Diploma first year students, on a tour of gardens in southwestern England, starting with Abbotsbury Subtropical Garden in Dorset and ending at Glendurgan, one of the many famous Cornish gardens. It was a relaxed but nevertheless exhausting week. 

Wistman Woods, Dartmoor

We also spent a couple of days in Dartmoor National Park visiting sites of interest such as Wistman’s Wood (see photo) and walking around with a BSBI employee from Devon looking at native plants. In Cornwall we visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trewithen, Lamorran House, and Trebah, before finishing at Glendurgan. Of course we took advantage of the Cornish summer sun and finished with a barbecue on the beach!

Farewell to the Fellowship and the UK

I could not have imagined a better way to end my year in the UK. I have made more friends than I can count, visited more gardens than I knew properly existed, and learned more about plants than I will ever remember. I can only hope that the RHS and GCA Fellows of the future will be as fulfilled in their Fellowships as I have been in mine.

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