Kew Gardens has joined the increasing number of organisations realising that social networking, and in particular Twitter, is an excellent way of increasing awareness of themselves and their products. However, unlike many organisations Kew Garden’s approach is a little more entertaining – a virtual botanical growing game – Tweet and Grow.
Tweet and Grow was launched on the 25th May and is available to anyone who wants to register. You have your own growing zone with four initial plants for you to tend. You can provide them with sun, water, nutrients, heat and a special plant boost if you choose to play the game via Twitter. However, what was less clear is that you only have 25 tend actions a day which you can get through very quickly and you need to distribute them evenly or your plants will die.
With each of the plants (Black Bamboo, Houseleek, Tilt-headed Aloe and Flaming Sword Bromeliad) you are provided with information about where the plants grow in the wild and what conditions they like. This is an excellent way of explaining different habitats to children and I think that Kew has missed a trick by not making the rewards you can earn at each level more child focussed.
There are four further plants which you can unlock in various ways. Through finding a code on Kew’s twitter feed, through tending the other plants, through finding a clue on Kew’s website and through visiting the garden. My one real complaint is that this game is too focussed on people being able to visit Kew Gardens. The rewards are excellent if you can visit the garden – two for one entry, free coffee in the shop, discount on gifts from the shop. If the purpose of the game is to get people to visit the garden then I can see the logic in this but it is very limited to people who can get to the gardens. For someone like me who lives in the West Midlands a visit to Kew is not that likely. However, if the purpose is to raise awareness of what work Kew do and to educate people about different habitats then the rewards and clues need to be more online focussed. It would be possible to provide an opportunity to buy discounted goods online from Kew’s shop or to build up vouchers to use from another online source. I feel it is a pity as I believe many people will lose interest when they realise they need to actually visit a garden which is a long way from them.
The game does make you think about what plants actually need to grow so my black bamboo needs more water than my Houseleek and so on and as I have said I think there is huge potential to develop this game to education younger people about different habitats in the meantime I will go back to looking after my Tilt-head Aloe to see what other rewards are hidden away.
I am on annual leave this week using up the last of my leave allowance and enjoying the late summer sunshine. It has been a strange week and dominated by visits to two very different gardens.
As some of you may have picked up a group of 25 of us UK garden bloggers/twitters visited Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove yesterday. Due to security no cameras etc were allowed so I can’t entertain you with photos. It was fascinating to see the reactions of a group of knowledgeable gardeners and particularly fascinating as I had visited the garden two years ago with a very different group. On my previous visit I had felt frustrated as no one was really engaging with the garden apart from in the ‘isn’t that nice’, ‘what’s that plant’ way. I felt strongly about some aspects that I didn’t like but was a lone voice so had to just shut up so to speak. Yesterday with a very lively group who weren’t afraid of saying what they thought I discovered that my impressions from two years before where shared by others which was nice. We had a lovely day, very entertaining and fun and no doubt there will be future trips.
In complete contrast the day before I visited a small local garden – Picton Gardens. This garden is well known for housing the national collection of Michaelmas Daisies and only really opens for visitors from mid August to mid October. The garden is only 10 minutes drive from my house and despite living in Malvern for 10 years I am ashamed to say I have never got there. So as I had some spare time and I wanted some Asters for my bank I decided to go and see what it was like. To be honest my visit was several weeks too early as the majority of the flowers were still in bud. They are after all called Michaelmas Daisies because they open around Michaelmas Day at the end of September! However there were some open along with Echineacea, Solidago and Heleniums. The garden also has a lot of grasses, bamboos, acers amongst other shrubs and it was interesting to see how these worked with the perennials. There was one small area which really jarred for me – the Centenary Garden. This included a lot of clipped purple berberis and I don’t know whether it was the colours of the berberis or the fact that I am not keen on topiary and low clipped hedges but I really didn’t like it.
The garden is not that big and doesn’t take long to go round and I spent nearly as long in the nursery selecting my Asters. I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one area at the same time. The nursery does a mail order service and I presume the vast quantities are to accommodate this. I selected a Sanguisorba canadensis, I know that’s not an Aster but it is fab looking plant and will add height to the border. I bought three Asters as a starting point – Sonia, St Micheal and Umbellatus, hopefully they will do well and I can add to them in the future.
Unlike the merriment of visiting Highgrove I visited the Picton Gardens on my own and I always find that these solo visits are much quicker as there is no one to say ‘What do you think of that?’ etc to. However, my primary reason for visiting Picton was to buy Asters so going on my own was fine but I am so glad that I spent yesterday with the group I did as I havent laughed so much in ages. Thank you all – you know who you are!