Kew Gardens is to axe 125 of its 750 staff – to cut costs.

The royal botanic garden is facing a shortfall of £5million with bosses blaming financial woes on the “economic situation” in recent years.

Despite the crisis, Kew was a star performer in 2013, attracting 1,324,499 visitors. That’s a rise of 29.4 per cent on 2012 (AG, 22 March).

A spokesman for the west London-based gardens, which charge £14.50 adult admission, said steps had to be taken to make Kew more efficient.

He said: “Costs will be reduced and this will include changes in staffing. We will be working with staff to explore all the options, including reduced working hours and unpaid leave.

“This will happen before moving onto consideration of redeployment, voluntary redundancies or, as a last resort, compulsory redundancies. The scale of potential cuts equates to approximately 125 roles.”

Kew claims to have a “global role” in protecting plant diversity and “solving challenges of food security”.But it would not say what areas of the gardens could be affected by the cuts.

Kew’s country garden in Sussex, Wakehurst Place, has just started charging National Trust members up to £10 per day for car parking. Wakehurst costs Kew £1.4million per year to run.

Kew is not alone in experiencing tough times. Cornwall’s Eden Project announced a £6.3million loss in March 2013 – leading to two redundancy programmes that saw 67 jobs cut.

Visitors to Eden, which charges £23.50 admission, fell by 9.9 per cent last year to 858,897.