Alan Titchmarsh, a student at Kew in the 1970s, offers an insight into the work carried out behind the scenes by the 150 gardening staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Palm House keeper Emma Fox is seen doing battle with a plague of thrips, while tree gang member Jon Hammerton fells a diseased tree. Outside, preparations for a giant badger sett are also under way.
Expert in foul odours Dr Geoffrey Kite eagerly anticipates the rare flowering of the mighty Titan arum, an evil-smelling bloom lasting just 24 hours. Simon and Tim Cole work against the clock to complete the badger sett and field hospital in time for Kew’s Go Wild festival.
The tree gang work with pupils in Richmond to make a haven of their empty school field. Back at Kew, Sarah Smith and her troops have just four days to turn the bedraggled Palm House border into a spectacular display using 12,000 plants.
John Dransfield, a leading authority on Madagascan palms, undertakes one last mission to his favourite destination before retiring, only to find that a species believed to be facing extinction appears to have vanished altogether. Keeper of the fern collection Steve Ketley searches for a new home for his consignment of giant moth cocoons.
It’s a nail-biting time as Head of Horticulture Nigel Taylor waits for news about UNESCO World Heritage status for the gardens and Emma Fox takes on the role of a nocturnal beetle to pollinate the giant water lilies.
Kew has been going through a long dry spell and some of the older trees in the garden have started to show signs of stress, particularly an oak tree near the conservation area which has dropped a large branch. Kew’s tree gang have been called in to deal with the problem.
Arboretum manager Ray Townsend and his team are hard at work irrigating the gardens during the hottest summer for years, while arboretum head Tony Kirkham travels to Italy to search for matching pairs of mature trees for the Pagoda vista.
The tree team are called to the Palm House to tackle a tree that is giving cause for concern while Ray Townsend travels to Japan to collect specimens.
Tony Kirkham uses the old-fashioned methods of harvesting wheat, and with a bit of help, makes his own loaf of bread.
The team from Kew’s arboretum are plant hunting on an island off Japan. One plant they come across causes particular interest since it appears to be unknown and unnamed. If they are right then it could be the kind of day botanists dream about .Phil Griffiths has a lucky day when he discover a large tree trunk that is perfect for one of his displays in the Princess of Wales Greenhouse.
Ray Townsend meets a bamboo expert during an enforced pit-stop in a Japanese lay-by. At the gardens, Phil Griffiths creates a stunning display of pumpkins and gourds, and in one of the galleries a scholarship student is displaying her botanical artwork.
The curator of the Millennium Seed Bank, Stuart Cable, travels to Madagascar to collect seeds from endangered species and Sarah Smith and Emma Gardner delve into the past when an archaeological dig begins at Kew Palace. Randall Keynes the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin pays a visit to the gardens in search of a rare rhododendron.
A fault is detected in the heating system for the Palm and Water Lilly houses, putting the exotic specimens in the houses at risk. Tony Kirkham plants the new trees that have arrived from Italy and Stuart Cable continues his seed collecting trip in Madagascar.
The tree gang offer their specialist attention to the 200-year-old Almeida Botanic Gardens in Gibraltar before getting into gear for the spring. Back at Kew, Tony Hall gives students advice while replanting islands in one of Kew’s lakes, and excitement mounts as the oldest pot plant in the world shows signs of producing a cone – for the first time in 180 years. Not to be outshone by this remarkable feat, Jon Hammerton becomes the father of a baby girl.
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