In the lush greenhouses of Kyiv’s National Botanical Garden, staff are struggling to save a decades-old collection of tropical plants after months of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power grid led to electricity outages, threatening the garden’s heating supply.
“These collections cannot be restored. This is not a greenhouse with cucumbers and tomatoes… The loss of this collection would be a great national loss for Ukraine,” said Lyudmyla Buiun, responsible for tropical and subtropical plants.
“Plants cannot be told… ‘please endure, because today it is -15 degrees (Celsius).’ It is impossible,” she said, pointing out signs of cold damage on some plants.
The plants would face a serious crisis if the temperature in the greenhouse dropped below 15 degrees Celsius, she added.
Finding ways to maintain a tropical climate in a freezing Kyiv hit by frequent power outages, is very difficult, and garden workers are now preemptively heating the greenhouses by burning firewood, although smoke poses a risk to plants.
They would usually create heat by burning wood in electric ovens. However, the frequent power cuts disrupt the heating cycle and it takes hours to restart the ovens, boiler room operator Yurii Nai said.
The garden’s administration has now connected to Kyiv’s central heating system to have a backup, but fears further missile strikes on the power grid.