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A living grove

by Jamie Atwell, garden volunteer

January, it may surprise some to know, is one of the busiest times in the garden here at Fulham Palace. Just one of the tasks carried out over the last few days has been hazel coppicing from hazels in the woodland walk. Head gardener Lucy Hart and her full time team had identified stands of hazel that were suitable for such application.

The idea is simple, but ingenious. Hazel wands are harvested for use in the garden later in the spring as supports for beans and other vegetables as well as being the raw materials for ‘wigwams’ through which plants in the walled garden can grow on a firm structure. We volunteers got straight to work in cutting down hazels of approximately two or three years in age, to provide the wands which are both tough and flexible. The trick is to harvest them as close to the ground as possible and, importantly, to ensure that the stumps are all at the same height. This should hopefully ensure equal and regular growth over the next couple of years before the process is repeated.

Once harvested, the work was by no means complete. A bundle of wands had to be tied together for ease of transportation.  Recalling old Boy Scout days, a slipknot was tied round the base of each bundle by one volunteer, with another holding the bundle as tight as possible. Twine was then wrapped around the body of the bundle before a final slipknot finishes off the whole.

The final stage was to clear away ivy (and its roots!) from the areas where hazel has been harvested to ensure that future crop can grow in a favourable environment, without being choked.

A clever, sustainable method of adding a valuable resource to the garden, and one that should provide wands for many years to come!

You will be able to see the fruits of our labour in the walled garden this spring.

The hazel wands will be used to train climbing plants such as beans in our walled garden in the spring.