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Date: 
Wednesday, July 1, 2020 - 14:00

The Eden Project is preparing to welcome visitors again to the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes from Saturday (July 4), following the reopening of the outdoor gardens on June 6.

During lockdown a small and dedicated team of horticulturists worked hard to ensure that the living collections were looked after for when visitors come back. And now they say Eden is flowering its heart out.

Here three of the horticultural team describe some of the highlights plant lovers can look forward to - and look back on their time working while the gardens were closed.

Horticulturist Rob Elley has been looking after the Mediterranean Biome, which features more than 1,000 varieties of plants from the warm temperate regions of the world.

Rob says: “While many people remained largely isolated in their own homes, I have been lucky enough to work alone in the warmth of the Mediterranean Biome.

My task has been daunting - to keep the plant collection watered and alive for everyone to enjoy once we reopen.

“I usually have my own areas within the Biome to tend, but as I’ve worked as hard as I can, I’ve seen the wild areas of the Med basin, California, South Africa and Western Australia get denser and wilder, while flowering their hearts out without any help from me.

“I also look after our crop area, Campaign for Female Education garden, Vines, Med Veg, Citrus, Fruit and Nut and also our winter and spring bedding displays, all of which have flowered and now bearing fruit and vegetables. 

“The plant that gets top marks for colour is the Bougainvillea, a mass of pink bracts.  That burst of colour just takes your breath away.

“As you would expect the weeds have been on display as well…lots of them. Slowly but surely, I’ve been working methodically through each area to manage their spread so as to not let them take over.

“I’ve changed the spring pot displays over to our summer displays and they are ready and looking fabulous.   These include Aeonium ‘Tip Top’, Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’, Fuchsia ‘Eruption’, Nemensia ‘Karoo Soft Blue’, Digitalis and Cenchrus ‘Rubrum’.

“Overall, the Biome’s plant collection has been at its best and is putting on such a wonderful display of flowers.  While a bit raggedy on the edges it still outperforms itself.  I’m lucky to have seen this display all to myself, but I can’t wait for our visitors to be able to see it again.

“My time during lockdown working in the Biome has really been a blessing to my mental health. I’ve been able to temporarily put aside the challenges that face us all in these trying times. 

“My body might be tired but my mind is sharp and raring to go. Very soon now you’ll be able to share the beauty of the Mediterranean Biome and we can welcome you back.”

Leo Hood leads the team looking after the Rainforest Biome, the largest undercover rainforest in the world.

Leo says: “Though I’ve been working alone in the Rainforest I’ve not been short of animal company. It’s been lovely having the normally shy tree frogs, geckos and Roul Rouls (Malaysian partridges) so active and visible throughout the Biome, helping me keep it looking good by eating the aphids and mealybugs. 

“I’ve had peaceful but highly active days where the only sounds I hear are the leaves, the opening and closing of the Biome vents and the rush of the waterfall.

“This has been a good time for quiet reflection on many aspects of running the Biome such as the planting design, the exhibits, and what all these mean for people visiting. 

“Today I paused and just looked at the marvellous view and took five minutes to meditate - things I would never be able to do in a normal working day.

“We’ve had continuous stunning floral displays from the likes of the Jade vine, Sausage Tree, Madagascan Rubber Vine, and Passion flowers (Passiflora).  

“Most of the work consists of keeping things cut back and there is a lot still to do. In the coming weeks, the rope-trained climbers we call ‘Sky Monkeys’ will be scaling the Biome roof to reach the Cannonball Tree (Coroupita guianensis) which stands at 20 metres tall.  We will be using our 17-metre cherrypicker to prune more than 40 trees that have become overgrown. 

“A lockdown highlight has been bringing plants in from Eden’s nursery and planting current and future stunners such as a type of mangrove frangipani (Cerbera manghas) and wild tobacco (Actnistus arborescens) respectively. 

“I’ve brought in mangrove plants and hope that the new mangrove area will soon be ready so visitors can learn about this awesome forest ecosystem. 

“We’ve also planted a Coconut after many years of absence – a seriously important palm we all use in our lives be it as fruit, milk, replacement peat, rope, brush, doormat, houseplant, shampoo, soap, body oil or cooking oil.

“Like my fellow Eden gardeners, I can’t wait to share our living collections again once we  open more fully.”

Julie Kendall leads the team looking after Eden’s 30-acre outdoor garden, a task she undertook alone while Eden was closed to visitors.

Julie says: “It was a strange and challenging time, looking after a huge and varied 30 acres during lockdown. Since June 6 when we reopened the outdoor garden it has been wonderful to have visitors back and lovely to be able to chat to people while out tending our fabulous array of plants. 

“Because we are encouraging our guests to take a wider route before heading down towards the Biomes, many are discovering the horticultural delights of our great outdoors for the first time.

“And after the warmest spring anyone can remember, plus a good dose of Cornish liquid sunshine in wet, windy and sunny June, there are some glorious sights and enchanting scents to enjoy on your socially-distanced stroll.

“Myth and Folklore, tucked away at the top of the garden, is so atmospheric, full of enclosing trees and our mud maiden Eve. The sculpture, such a favourite, is not so easy to find but well worth the search.  

“The Outdoor Mediterranean area has been full of fabulous flowers for months now.  Here you can enjoy an array of botanical wonders, including Puya chilensis with their incredible inflorescence, towering Echium, the freaky Beschorneria and the sweet little rock roses known as Cistus. 

“Lower down our much-loved field of lavender, heads nodding in the breeze, is a haze of blue, carrying a heady scent that attracts a multitude of bees of several species.  

“Looking back on lockdown, it was the first time in 20 years that not only were there no guests in the garden but no music and no machinery. I think it was the first time I have really heard birdsong.

“It has also been a time to catch up.  I’ve made regular trips to our nursery and started to reinstate our pharmaceutical exhibit. 

“I’ve also been evolving the Beer and Brewing exhibit into Brewing and Distilling which will tell a big story using more plants and give us some winter interest.

“We look forward to welcoming more visitors back after the Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes open on Saturday and we hope they will take time to savour our great outdoors when they visit.”