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Planting in the walled garden

by Lindsay Schuman, acting head gardener

May has been a busy month. We have been solidly planting, planting, planting, making frames for plants to climb up, measuring out plots with string and protecting seedlings from the birds. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry as we had to dash to cover our dahlias when a freak hail shower hit late this month!

I don’t think I have drawn breath for a few weeks. The students were working on the Kings Seeds garden at the Chelsea Flower Show last week, which to our delight has won a gold medal, so we are especially proud of them. In the walled garden at Fulham Palace we have managed to sort our legume bed which consists of peas (Ambassador and Boogie), dwarf  French beans (Speedy and Sonesta), mangetout (Golden Sweet and Oregon Sugar Pod), runner beans (St George and Celebration) and climbing beans (Blauhilde and Fasold).  We plan to sow the peas and the mangetout again in a couple of weeks to ensure we get good crop succession. The mangetout do all the better for being picked regularly. We have been fortunate enough to be using hazel peasticks and wigwams from our crop of hazel which was coppiced in the winter and saved for just such a moment.

The brassicas have gone in in the last few days. These include purple sprouting broccoli (Summer Purple and Sprouting Redhead), cabbage (Kilaxy and Surprise), cauliflower (Purple Graffiti and Galleon), pak choi, kohl rabi and kale. The harsh winds were something of a concern to these new plantings, and we have spontaneously fashioned a couple of little shelters. For a walled garden it can get surprisingly gusty.  Now we just have cabbage root fly, and the slugs to worry about – there’s always something! The snails have already been spotted on our irises in the knot garden and dealt with accordingly. Iris ‘Sable’ is just starting to unfurl beautifully now and looks amazing with our very old Wisteria sinensis behind it, the smell of which incidentally is heavenly right now.

We are also growing herbs, salad leaves and cucurbits, not to mention potatoes, which seem to be fine so far. The pumpkins have all been treated to their own mound of manure mixed into the soil. They will love the extra richness this will bring. We’re trying some cut flowers as well, and hopefully will have enough hazel sticks to create some more supports for these taller blooms.  The staff and volunteer team made a proper hazel archway into the vegetable quadrant, and we have planted sweet peas (Best of British, Prince of Orange, Singing the Blues and Albutt Blue) up this in order to get a lovely scented entrance. Let’s hope we have seen the last of the hail!