The Top Brass: Britain's Top 10 Curators of Botanic Gardens - from Kew to the Eden Project, They're Blazing a Nature Trail
Hilpern, Kate, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
Dr Peter Crane, 48, is director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, one of the largest and most influential gardens in the world. In addition, he is professor of the School of Plant Sciences at the University of Reading and visiting professor in palaeobotany at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written more than 100 scientific publications, including several books on plant evolution.
"My fascination with plants - and particularly how their diversity came about through evolution - was what initially attracted me into this profession. Increasingly, I've also become interested in how plant diversity can be conserved for the future and used in sustain- able ways for human benefit.
"I think organisations like Kew are especially interesting because they mix research with public education. In part, they have a research mission akin to that of a university department. But they have the added dimensions of caring for unique and irreplaceable collections and of being able to reach people of all ages to engage them about the impor- tance of plants in all our lives.
"In this career, you can't get far without a real passion for plants and without enjoying the interactions with people needed to solve problems and make things happen. In a big research organisation like Kew, it is also important to have a broad understanding of the full sweep of modern plant science. Working in botanic gardens is not the way to fame and fortune, but it is hugely rewarding in other ways if your heart and soul are in it."
Hugh Angus, 50, is responsible for managing the National Tree Collections at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, and Bedgebury in Kent, both recognised as two of the world's outstanding tree collections. They are owned by the Forestry Commission and open to the public all year round.
"The secret of my success has been a single-minded focus on promoting the importance of trees to a wide audience."
Steve Blackmore, 50, is Regius keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, founded in 1670 and part of the National Botanic Gardens of Scotland. He was appointed to his role by the Queen in 1999.
"I want to interpret our remarkable collection of wild plant species, the second-richest on the planet, so that it communicates the mutual inter- dependence of plants and people."
Jim Gardiner, 52, started his horticultural career at the Royal Gardens and Great Park Windsor and has worked in major gardens around the UK. He is now curator of the Royal Horticultural Society's garden at Wisley.
"Professional training in horticultural practice is a prerequisite, along with being a `plantaholic' with an eye for detail and enjoying motivating people to achieve success."
Simon Goodenough, 47, is curator of Ventnor Botanic Garden on the Isle of Wight. Unusually for gardens of this nature, it is a public open space which can be visited free of charge. It receives more than 250,000 visitors a year, displaying temperate, sub-tropical and exotic plants, shrubs and trees from around the world.
"Plants are an all-consuming passion, their study and cultivation a way of life. …