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New BBC gardening programmes announced

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Encephalartos altensteinii image Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The cycads, which outlived the dinosaurs and still grow today, form the starting point of a new radio series exploring the history of our relationship with plants. Meanwhile after “reviving”, “allotmenteering”, and community-gardening, BBC television is adding designing to its repertoire- inviting competitors to design a garden for Chelsea 2015.

Amateur gardeners, design students or graduates with dreams of having their own show garden on the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Main Avenue, are invited to apply for the BBC2 ‘Designs for Chelsea’ programme filming in July, August and September this year by calling 0117 974 6648 or filling in the online application form on the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/beonashow/

Something which aims to create a more long-lasting legacy than a Chelsea show garden, is BBC Radio 4’s new 25-part series Plants: From Roots to Riches.  Using the world-class collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, including its herbarium with over 7 million preserved plant specimens, the programmes will tell the story of plant science from Kew’s opening in 1759  and use of Linnaean classification,through unexpected tales of adventure and derring-do to the latest research using DNA for plant bar-coding. Beginning with Kew’s oldest resident the cycad, Encephalartos altensteinii, brought to Kew in 1775, the series will also feature plant hunters, the race between Kew and Chatsworth House to flower the first giant Amazonian water-lily, Victoria amazonica and Kew’s pivotal role in the global rubber trade.

How social, economic and scientific developments have influenced our attitudes to plants and our use of them -as food, fuel, industry, objects of beauty and essential global resources to be preserved – will also be investigated.

“It is an absolute privilege to be able to tell the story of people and plants over the past 250 years. Britain’s botanical heritage is incredibly rich in compelling, memorable tales of adventure and discovery, politics and conflict, breath-taking beauty and, ultimately, our dependence on plants,” said Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science RBG Kew.  She added, “I hope this series will encourage listeners to look at plants in a new light.”

The series will be broadcast from 21st July and the accompanying hardback in August 2014.

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