This week we had five very special visitors to Kew. Every week we have on average 30,000 pretty special people visit Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place but these five were just a little bit more special.
They were The Expert Panel. For the first time in its 253 year history the horticulture at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was being reviewed, by an expert panel.
The chair of the panel was Kris Jarantoski, Executive Vice President and Director of Chicago Botanic Garden, who for his day job looks after the horticulture, plant collections and Gardens operations at Chicago.
With him was Dr David Rae, currently Director of Horticulture at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and with similar responsibilities there, but about to add marketing and other bibs and bobs to his portfolio.
Plus David Richards a landscape architect from GROSS . MAX . (if I have my capitalisation, spacing and punctuation correct), who worked with Eelco Hooftman on the two landscape master plans for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Russ Canning, a landscape architect with his own (relatively capital and punctuation free) company (Russ Canning and Company Limited) led the design of the Wetland Centre in Barnes and more recently has worked on Windsor Great Park.
Making up the five was Jim Gardiner, Director of Horticulture at the Royal Horticultural Society and previously Chief Curator at the Wisley RHS garden. He also likes magnolias.
The Chairman of Kew's Board of Trustees, Marcus Agius, joined the group for their tours of Wakehurst Place and Kew Gardens. Marcus is Chairman of Barclay's Bank as well as Non-executive Director at Exbury Gardens and a passionate gardener.
I've spent most of this post telling you who was on the panel because, as yet, I can't tell you what they decided. I can say that they were a pleasure to host, and we chose well - the panel included a productive mix of botanical, horticultural and landscape experience.
The five main things we asked them to review were:
- Alignment of horticulture with Landscape Master Plans
- Standards of horticulture and landscape
- Uses of the living collection for science, conservation, education and visitor experience
- Identification of new revenue opportunities
- Management structure and oversight
We now await their verdict. Has Kew got talent, the voice or do we think we can dance (readers from abroad can insert their own television talent show phrases)?
Images: I'm afraid these pictures are a mix my own fuzzy pictures of the two Davids, some cropped web images of the others, and a Kew magnolia for Jim Gardiner. [But wait, I've just added a picture of the whole group, with me, taken by Ravi Sachdev - it's above the magnolia...]