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Scott Taylor Kew Gardens horticulturalist
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Kew Gardens horticulturalist

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…according to Scott Taylor, 36.

South-west London is more biodiverse than the Amazon rainforest

‘You don’t have to go to Brazil or Namaqualand: just come to Kew Gardens! We’re probably the most biologically diverse postcode in the world, with 35,000 different species of plants. You wouldn’t think that an area of one of the world’s busiest urban environments is the place where you’d see the most biodiversity.’

Kew has a massive backstage bit…

‘The behind-the-scenes areas make up 5 to 10 percent of Kew’s area. There are greenhouses, arboretum nurseries and something we call the Melon Yard, where we grow plants having scientific research done on them. We also have our sister garden Wakehurst Place, 30 miles down the road, where we’ve got the world’s rarest plants as seeds.’

…and a forensic science department

‘It’s not my side of the business, but we work a lot with HM Customs. Sometimes they’ll call our guys out to inspect a plant and say whether someone’s trying to pull a fast one and import a really rare plant poached from the wild.’

Looking after Victorian glasshouses is a tricky business

‘A lot of our plants are difficult to reproduce and some of them are really rare, so when we wanted to restore the Temperate House it took two years just to assess and remove the plants. Then the building itself is very complex – it’s a mixture of iron, steel, aluminium, bricks and mortar, glass and wood – and it’s had to be future-proofed with a better power supply and wi-fi. But considering it took 40 years to completely finish – from 1860 to 1899 – restoring it in five years is nothing.’

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The Temperate House at Kew reopens on May 5.

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