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In the garden this month

November 2017

Leaves play a huge part in all gardens in November, colouring the sky and landscape and then falling and covering everywhere like a patch work quilt.  There are just over 600 trees at Fulham Palace ranging in ages and sizes and each year the vivid leaf colours are always welcomed.

Most leaves start to turn colour from mid-October but depending on the weather we receive will determine the “success” of the autumn leaf displays.  Sunny days will enhance the brightest colour displays in the leaves since the red and orange anthocyanin leaf pigments require light.  Overcast days will lead to more yellows and browns. Strong winds can blow the leaves off too quickly, and Storm Brian back in October did just that.  At dusk some of the remaining leaves looks as though they are glowing in the dark.

The Ginkgo biloba is a reliable specimen to provide a breath taking display.  This deciduous conifer lights the front entrance of the walled garden up this month.  This is a good leaf for pressing to decorate cards and collages as it is robust and dries and flattens.

The Liquidambar styraciflua – grown at the palace during Bishop Compton’s tenure (1675-1713) comes into its element during November.  Its upright, nearly fastigiate habit looks like red flames lapping from a bonfire.  This species is native to North America where Bishop Compton had botanical connections and sent Reverend Bannister over to collect and return plants and seeds so he could expand his collections at the Fulham Palace grounds.

The Garden Apprentices are tested on seasonal plants throughout the year and the selection this month obviously features a lot of autumn leaves. Identifying trees can be trickier without the leaves but not impossible by any means.  You study the bud formation and arrangements along the stems.

We are very fortunate to have an army of regular garden volunteers to help with the leaf clearing.  Having tried many different strategies, picking up leaves little and often is usually the best way.  If you don’t keep on top of it, leaves start to break down on lawns and rot the grass leaving unsightly bare patches (that will eventually grow back but not straight away now that summer is over).  They also become quite a slip hazard on paths when wet.

We are very proud of our composting heap area with 4 bays to collect and rotate the organic material, turning it between bays.  The compost heap was built in autumn 2014 in and funded by the Western Riverside Environmental Fund   We use our garden compost to mulch and to improve the soil of our flower and vegetable beds. Leaves are fantastic for the compost heap as they add a different texture of organic matter to help the rotting process.

We store most of the deciduous leaves separately to make a wonderful special compost made just out of leaves (nothing else) called leaf mould.  The leaves are left to rot down for about 1 – 2 years and are not turned or disturbed during that time.   Leaf mould improves soil wonderfully for beds and is great for incorporating into potting mixes to make light and airy.  It is not a fertile medium and so good for bulking up and texture. Some leaves are better at rotting down that others with beech leaves being the best providing a light consistency.  London Plane leaves are not so good taking a lot longer to rot down as they are too waxy and thick.

Lucy Hart
Head Gardener


In the garden this month
In the garden this month
In the garden this month
In the garden this month
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