Back to News button arrow icon

Feline Fulham

Written by garden apprentice India.

As a gardener at Fulham Palace, you would generally think that the purpose of your role is mainly focusing on the care of the plants, our great volunteers, and the public. HOWEVER! Two feline personalities may have something to say about that and if they could they would say that they are, actually, indeed the top priority.

To simply state, at the top of the Fulham Palace hierarchy are the two cats, and quite simply we love them. Our chief mouser, Edmund (Eddy boy) and his mouser in training, Pamunkey (Pam) are heavily intertwined with the Palace and garden, they are the guardians of the vinery against hungry mice opportunists and this patch of SW6 postcode horticultural heaven is their home.

On my interview for the Historic and Botanic Garden Training Programme at the Palace (a bit of a mouthful to say so acronym-ed/slanged to ‘The HeeBeeJeeBee’) the last port of call was to the vinery to meet cats. It boded well as Pamunkey leapt up onto the side ledge for an extended head rub whilst elder Eddy maintained his relaxed demeanour in the cat basket below. Little did I know then what amazing relationships were going to emerge with the cats and in turn show me a more personal link to their favoured plants within the grounds.

Generally, around 10.00 and 13.30 Eddy will be squatted by the path next to the yew hedge which borders off the buzz of the allotments to the Fulham garden north lawn, beside him also stands a rather rare specimen of an evergreen conifer Cryptomeria japonica’ a Japanese cedar. The first part of the name (known as the genus) Cryptomeria comes from the modern Latin crypto meaning hidden and the Greek meros meaning part. This is in reference to the woody burr-like short clustered female fruiting cones that hide deeply under their scales the seeds. There are claw marks on the base of our tree, a similar action that a miniature tiger would be making to mark its territory. At least Eddy’s short talons don’t massively compromise the health of his scratch post-Japanese cedar, as the bark of the tree is soft and fibrous acting effectively as a form of protective insulation for harsh winters and hot dry summers. The reddish brown woody bark can be peeled off vertically, if harvested correctly, without damaging the tree where it was used for roof covering in the area where it grew originally.

The other cat, Pamunkey exudes teenage energy and usually during the winter months, she spends a good half hour weaving around the puzzle of entwined twisty branches and whips from the web of the Wisteria sinensis arch that mirrors the vinery’s curved structure whilst hugging the edge of the knot garden as a barrier from the veg beds. Whilst tackling the big job of the winter tie-in of whippy vines and the pruning, cutting back to two or three nodes to older wood, she will alert us of her jungle gym time with a chorus of meows. Sometimes her acrobatics shortfall her ambitions…

The joys of the garden are not just limited for these cats; one of our crafty/generous volunteers creates the sweetest little catnip felt mice toys that are sold at our barrow so that visitors can gift to their feline friends a taste of the garden at home. We harvest the Nepeta x faassenii  ‘Six Hills Giant’ (Catnip/Catmint) from our knot garden and pollinator beds where we dry it indoors for the toy mice. If you slightly crush the catnip on a dry cold day in winter whilst weeding then within the next 15 minutes you’ll find one or both of the cats rushing over unable to resist the allure of its scent.

I cannot wait to see what interactions happen between the garden and the cats for the spring and summer seasons, and hopefully, you can come down and also enjoy the garden as much as they do.