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Faces of Fulham Palace: Sophie

Written by garden apprentice Sophie.

I have now been at Fulham Palace as a garden apprentice for three months. Everyone says it, and they aren’t wrong, the time has flown by. I started at a busy time in the garden, with lots of the vegetable beds empty and ready to be marked out and planted. The potting shed a hive of activity and the vinery a constant rotation of seedlings growing and working their way to the cold frames, then finally ready to go in the ground.

It’s now July, the woolly hat has come off and shorts and sun cream are now on. The veg patches are nearly full of cut flowers and successions of vegetables. Half of the vinery has made way for tomatoes and cucumbers. In just over a month they have grown there way to three times the size, baring lots of fruit. We are starting to reap the rewards of our hard work as the barrow is filling with a variety of produce.

In a short time, I feel like I have learned a huge amount. I had the pleasure of overlapping with Millie, another apprentice, together we have taken on the challenge of root vegetables. She has now completed her apprenticeship and has passed the baton to me. It’s a cosy team here at Fulham with head gardener Lucy, Pete and Franziska our senior gardeners, three apprentices two cats and not to mention the 50 volunteers who join us through the week with their invaluable input.

I found my way to Fulham after I moved to London from Leeds about nine years ago to study fine art. I came to gardening after lots of exploring. Before Fulham, I was doing tours driving the land train at Kew, which really set in stone the horticultural bug. Looking back the thread has always been there, with my want to be outside in nature. From greenwood working to being part of an art collective who, instead of staying in studios in London, ran off to a mountain to make work around a campfire and tents.

So many different skills get used in this role and there’s so much to learn, it can be overwhelming at times and incredibly exciting. It’s not only plants we learn about, we learn about each other, the weather, birds, archaeology, biological controls and machinery maintenance to name a few. As well as reconnecting to your body, the world around it and how the two communicate.

I’ve always loved working with people and creating spaces for people to share stories and a bit of peace in busy cities. I’ve volunteered in community gardens, taught women’s groups woodworking and been a studio assistant to artist with disabilities.

I love hearing about people’s lives and how we all connect. I think plants are a great way to do that, from their uses, food to medicine, smells that evoke memories, the countries they started in and the myths and stories behind their names.