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The gardener 

Horticulturalist Colin Skelly in the Eden Project's Mediterranean Biome

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Living Landscapes Educator Colin Skelly loves not only getting his hands dirty, but helping others connect with the living world around them. He tells us what it's like being part of Eden. 

"The Eden Project’s mission is to ‘connect us with each other and the living world’ so my team, the Living Landscapes team, has a really central role to play in helping people connect with the plants in our gardens and Biomes.  

The idea is that that the horticultural displays not only look great, but tell the key stories behind the plants. Through our planting we do everything from highlighting the importance of pollinators to showcasing the history of garden plants. For example our Korean and South African gardens bring to life the landscapes of these countries, and our edible displays help people understand the food they eat. 

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Dahlia flower

“Our horticultural displays not only look great, but tell the stories behind the plants.”

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One of my favourites is the dahlia bed, which has a big wow factor in summer, and I love hearing our visitors reacting to it. Dahlias also have a fascinating story to tell; of their cultivation over the last couple of centuries from a Mexican wildflower to a modern horticultural industry.

For me it’s the perfect job. I get to work with plants hands on, and I’m always learning something new. We have apprentices, volunteers and Eden degree students working alongside us too, so I really enjoy passing on my learning to others.

One of the best things about working at the Eden Project is that it’s so variable, it keeps you on your toes. A typical day could see me working on one of our exhibits in the Outdoor Gardens, doing anything from weeding our ornamental displays through to sowing and harvesting crops, but also getting involved in research for our projects and partnerships. There’s always something new happening.

I've particularly enjoyed developing the Sustainability Pavilion with Eden for Expo 2020 Dubai. We've chosen drought-tolerant plants which not only look fantastic, but demonstrate how we can minimise water inputs. The planting also focuses on local plants, inviting visitors to stop regarding them as weeds and to celebrate these species which are so well adapted to their environment."

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