My big debut: Filming in the glasshouses

This week a crew from ARTE, a French film company, was at the Botanics shooting a documentary on the garden. In preparation Pat and I cleaned up the Victoria lilies (Victoria amazonica, Victoria cruziana, and the hybrid created by combining the two, Victoria 'Longwood Hybrid') in the Plants and People glasshouse, removing spent buds and tattered leaves. We also took out a bunch of Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth) that was overcrowding the pond.

The Victorias are always a crowd favorite. At midsummer, when the day length is longest, the lily leaves grow to a whopping 2-3 meters. We're in the pond several times a week to remove the oldest leaves to give the young ones room to grow.

On Thursday the crew arrived. The charismatic presenter and Fiona, an indoor supervisor, got in the pond in waders for the shoot. Pat and I worked in the background of the shoot--my big film debut is me walking into the scene with the fishing net we use to collect removed plant material!

Fiona and the presenter fed the Victoria lilies with fertilizer balls Pat and I had made earlier in the week by mixing rubbish soil with blood, fish, bone, general-purpose granular fertilizer, and sodium nitrate, which provides the high dose of nitrogen needed to produce the largest possible leaves. It's basically like making mudpies--we mix everything in a wheelbarrow with water and then shape the muck into tennis ball shapes that are left to dry for several days. To feed the lilies one plunges a ball underwater, deep into the pot next to the root ball. It sounds simple, but every part of the plant is covered with incredibly sharp spines that create puncture wounds that are sore for days. I've already got scars up the back of my wrist from accidental contact whilst removing leaves.

The shoot was challenging as the crew spoke only French, but everyone got through and the pond looked great. I was particularly impressed that the whole thing was shot on a hand-held DSLR, with two extra crew members doing sound.

I'm not sure when the film is due out, but I look forward to seeing the glasshouse I've helped to care for this summer on film. The film is supposed to be released in several countries, including Australia and Canada, so I might even get to see it in English! And finally, one of my photos went out to the world today on the RBGE Press Twitter account: