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Unprecedented Access to Kew in New TV Series

A new four-part TV series will launch on Channel 5 on Thursday 13 May 2021 at 8pm, following the work of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Filmed at both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, this series takes viewers behind the scenes, giving a glimpse of what makes Kew so special, in a year unlike any other. From the ground-breaking science, to the future-proofing botany, and the exceptional staff, the series provides a special insight into the wonder of the plants themselves, and how Kew’s employees maintain, study, and protect one of the most diverse collections on the planet.

Channel 5 were granted unprecedented access to film across both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, for the first time, in what turned out to be an extraordinary year. And had special permission to film behind the scenes during lockdown. The series features four, one-hour long episodes, with stories told across each of the four seasons. It follows the day to day work, trials and joys of the horticulture team caring for Kew’s valuable living collections and features behind-the-scenes access to some of Kew’s 350 scientists researching pollination, finding critical solutions to Ash dieback disease killing our ash trees, and searching the world for future foods to feed a growing population of a heating planet.


The series opens with ‘Winter’ and takes viewers to the banana plants in the iconic Palm House having a much-needed trim before they hit the glass roof, and visits the set-up for the 25th annual, and wonderfully vibrant, winter festival, Orchids. Kew scientist, Dr James Borrell, shares his research into enset, the plant dubbed the ‘tree against hunger’ providing the staple food for 20 million Ethiopians. We also visit Kew Gardens’ 14,000 trees, planted in family groups, each with their own story to tell, being cared for by Kew’s gravity defying Tree Gang. The episode concludes with an unexpected closure of Kew Gardens as Storm Ciara sweeps in.


The ‘Spring’ episode provides a rare behind-the-scenes look into the preparation for the annual display in the Waterlily House, which sees the glasshouse go from empty to bursting point. At Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, the focus is on its next big project: The American Prairie, and we follow the team as they prepare to sow the first seeds in this new landscape. The episode also features the world-famous Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst, the botanical Fort Knox that safeguards billions of the world’s seeds, as it marks its 20th year.


The ‘Summer’ episode finds the Temperate House staff preparing the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse before it reopens to summer visitors. The Tropical Nursery team shows viewers how staff painstakingly hand-pollinate orchids, and we learn more about pollination from Kew scientist’s Dr Hauke Koch and Professor Phil Stevenson. The episode revisits the Waterlily House team staying up late for a rare midnight bloom and reveals more about the design for the spectacular Broad Walk Borders at Kew Gardens. A visit to Wakehurst explores the team’s work to combat Ash Dieback, which is threatening the survival of ash trees across the UK and Europe. The episode concludes with the set-up of the first event of the summer at Kew Gardens, the Summer Cycle, which hangs in the balance as thunderstorms encroach.


The ‘Autumn’ episode visits the Kitchen Garden at Kew Gardens as produce is harvested for onsite restaurants, and viewers learn more about how scientists at RBG Kew are collecting wild relatives of major food crops to help ensure their survival. We visit Wakehurst to see conservation grazing in action, which features some very skilful and entertaining herding of the resident flock of sheep across the Gardens. The Alpine team at Kew Gardens share a behind-the-scenes insight as they care for the 7,000 strong Alpine bulb collection. As the winter winds hit Kew Gardens, viewers see how the Tree Gang tackles one of their toughest challenges yet, as they remove a fallen tree from the lake.

“This year has been incredibly difficult for many visitor attractions, and we have most definitely felt this at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Watching this life-affirming series has reminded me of the many fabulous moments during 2020 which has been so dominated by the global pandemic. I am very proud to see how this new TV series shines a light on our staff and the important work they do to care for our collections and the vital research they undertake. They really are the backbone of our glorious organisation.” Richard Deverell, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Filmed by Curve Productions for Channel 5, the series was commissioned in 2019 and filming took place from January to October 2020.

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This story was published on: 30/04/2021

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