See all the Christmas magic at Kew Gardens

Tuesday:Christmas Magic at Kew Gardens; (Channel 5, 9pm)

It’s the most biodiverse place on Earth, and it’s on the doorstep for thousands of Londoners.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, nestle deep within south west London, providing peace, solace and solitude for their many visitors.

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It’s an extraordinary place, just a few train stops away from the bright lights of the West End, and yet once inside, you can forget you’re in one of the busiest cities on the planet.

Hopefully viewers will get a sense of that when they tune into a new one-off documentary taking them behind-the-scenes to see how its staff are preparing for the festive season.

“It’s wonderful to be able to welcome visitors back to Christmas at Kew for 2021,” says Sandra Botterell, director of marketing and commercial enterprise. “As well as some much-loved festive favourites, this year’s trail also encompasses some enchanting new installations, taking inspiration from Kew’s wonderful living and archive collections. With over a million lights illuminating Kew’s spectacular botanic gardens, Christmas at Kew really is a seasonal spectacular unlike any other.”

“We’re so excited to be supporting Christmas at Kew for a second year and we’re sure this year it will be bigger and better than ever,” adds Debbie Epstein, marketing director at Montezuma’s Chocolate, which is sponsoring some of the delights on offer. “We’ll be adding a touch of magic to the trail with our mouth-watering chocolate bars and buttons, and new this year, we’ll be serving our signature hot chocolate. We’ll have our beautiful Christmas Bauble Tree again, which captured the imagination of the children last year, and a Wishing Tree to acknowledge the trials and tribulations everyone has experienced during the pandemic.”

Although the trees have now shed their leaves and many of the plants are slowing down as temperatures take a tumble and sunlight becomes a rarity, life still goes on – Kew’s staff are, if anything, busier than ever.

Cameras have been allowed to follow some of them as they set to work on a variety of tasks, from working in the kitchens at the site’s restaurants and cafes to keeping the famous glasshouses clean and topping up the compost heaps. But of most interest will be the Christmas-themed tasks, including hanging lights on Britain’s tallest living Christmas tree and festive pruning in the Temperate House. We certainly don’t envy those who must climb the ladders needed to reach some of the wildest inhabitants which are threatening to break through the roof.

In the vegetable garden, heritage carrots are being pulled, kale cut and Jerusalem artichokes lifted ready for a very special festive meal for the tree gang as they take a well-earned break from rigging the thousands of Christmas lights.

There’s also a glimpse of the work carried out by Kew’s scientists, who propagate holly while revealing the importance of frankincense to horticulturists.

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It’s the ninth year that the Christmas at Kew event has taken place, and the programme concludes with a chance to see the fruits of everyone’s labours as the switches are thrown, the magical winter trail lights up and families enjoy the fun – they may even get a glimpse of Santa Claus if they’re lucky, too.

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