July 9, 2008

Curator Returns to His Devon Roots


Paignton Zoo's new curator of plants and gardens is globe- trotting Kevin Frediani, who is returning to his Devon roots.

Kevin, who has spent the last two years at the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens in the Netherlands, grew up in Ashburton.

Returning to Devon means a lot to him.

He says: "I've achieved many wonderful professional objectives over the years but this is where I began my career in horticulture and found my passion for plants, so it's where I feel at home.

"Curator of plants at Paignton Zoo is the post in Devon I have kept my eye on over the years and the one I'd consider returning for.

"The zoo has a fantastic collection due to the botanical work of previous curators and head gardeners.

"The site has the benefit of the South West's mild climate and the area has an underlying geology which can provide a lifetime of interest for someone who is interested in realising the potential of plants on a site."

He says his plans for the gardens at the zoo are simple: "To realise the potential of plants, no more and no less."

He started his horticultural training at Bicton College, took a degree in applied plant biology and horticultural science at Nottingham University and has studied plant collections at Cambridge Botanic Garden.

He is currently completing his thesis for an MSc in conservation management from Surrey University.

He said: "I'm lucky to have worked in some wonderful places over the years. I have just returned from Amsterdam where I was head of living collections, science and education at De Hortus Botanicus, one of the world's first botanic gardens dating back to 1638."

He was the first curator of plants at the Zoological Society of London, helping to establish a vision for plants on the society's sites at Whipsnade and London Zoo.

He has also worked at Windsor Great Park and the Scottish Agricultural College.

He said: "Over the past 15 years I have travelled widely, from the coastal dune systems of the Netherlands to the alpine meadows of the alps in Austria and Switzerland and the habitats of the Mediterranean basin. I've been to Scandinavia, the Ukraine, Romania and Moldova to see woodland, steppe and estuarine habitats. In Africa I visited Kenya and Tanzania. I was married there. We spent the honeymoon among baobab trees and wading through mangrove swamps."

Outside of work he says his family is important to him. One of his brothers, Chris, is a member of the team that presents the BBC's DIY SOS show.

Beyond his passion for plants, his interests include keeping fit, Japanese martial arts and old motorcycles.

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