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In the Gardens this month

November 2018

Leaves play a huge part in all gardens in November, colouring the sky and landscape and then falling and covering everywhere like a patchwork quilt.  There are 600 trees at Fulham Palace ranging in ages and sizes and species such as our Ginkgo biloba, Morus alba – White Mulberry, Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’ – Purple copper beech,  are just a few that have beautiful autumn displays.

Another fine tree for good autumn leaf colour is 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 Banister over to collect and return plants and seeds so he could expand his collections at the Fulham Palace grounds.

Most leaves start to turn colour from mid-October but the success of the autumn leaf displays often depends on the weather. Sunny days will enhance the red and orange anthocyanin leaf pigments as they require light. Overcast days will lead to more yellows and browns. Strong winds can blow the leaves off too quickly, and storm Edris back in October did just that to our Black Walnut Juglans nigra. Just out of interest, the Met Office have been naming our storms since 2015.  Storms are only named for weather severe enough to be given an ‘amber’ or ‘red’ warning. The Met Office says naming storms helps to make sure people are aware of bad weather so they can prepare. Here at Fulham Palace we keep a close eye on the weather forecasts and put out warning signs should a weather warning be issued. We then measure then wind throughout the day using the Beaufort Scale and if the wind reaches a certain speed we have to close the gardens.

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 (they will eventually grow back but this takes longer now summer is over). Fallen leaves also become quite a slip hazard on paths when wet.

We are very proud of our composting heap area, with four bays to collect and rotate organic material. 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, which results in a special compost made just out of leaves, nothing else – called leaf mould. The leaves are left to rot down for 1 – 2 years and not turned or disturbed. Leaf mould is a wonderful soil improver for beds and is great for incorporating into potting mixes to make them light and airy. It’s not a fertile medium and is good for bulking up and texture. Some leaves are better at rotting down than others with beech leaves being the best providing a light consistency. London Plane leaves are not so good, they take a lot longer to rot down as they are waxy and thick.

The landscape side of the restoration project excitingly continues. So far about 85% of the plants have been sourced, which equates to 80 new species being reintroduced to the grounds that were once grown and planted here by Bishop Compton between 1675-1713. This month we are receiving the main bulk of the Bishop Compton plants, which will be planted along the new south path and in-between the outside of the walled garden and the churchyard.

Lucy Hart
Head Gardener

If you would like to find out more about the gardens at Fulham Palace, join Lucy for the Head Gardener’s Autumn Walk on Tuesday 6 November. Tickets £6, book now.


In the Gardens this month
In the Gardens this month
In the Gardens this month
In the Gardens this month
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