By Jamie Atwell, garden volunteer
One of the great bonuses of being a garden volunteer at Fulham Palace is the opportunity to pick the brains of head gardner Lucy Hart and her marvellous full-time team. My cunning plan being that I can then make use of their wisdom in my garden at home. Over the last 12 months, for example, I’ve plagued them with innumerable queries including matters such as when to cut back Penstemon (April), what to do with daffodils when they cease flowering (leave them to die off as they need time to store energy in the bulbs after blooming) and what on earth a ‘Chelsea chop’ is (a method of pruning some herbaceous plants to control growth, usually undertaken around the same time as the Chelsea Flower Show, hence the name).
Their responses have always been very helpful, informative and without a trace of being spoken through gritted teeth(!) If you are ever visiting the garden don’t be shy about raising any queries you may have – the full time team can generally be identified by their purple tops. We volunteers will of course always do our best to help too, but we don’t pretend to have the same level of expertise as our full time colleagues.
The same goes for all the other remarkable staff at the Palace who will be more than happy to field questions about the Palace itself, its history and archaeology and anything else that may crop up. Not content with just bothering the gardening team I’ve recently asked whether Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown had any involvement here and whether the Metaphysical poet John Donne (who ended his days as Dean of St Paul’s) might have visited during the first part of the 17th century. True to form, I’ve received knowledgeable and helpful answers together with flattering comments such as “what an interesting question.”
The above, I hope, illustrates that the Fulham Palace staff are here to assist in any way they can with anyone’s queries as well being totally committed to maintaining this wonderful house and its grounds. As Nicholas Crane said in his book about the making of the British landscape “to care about a place, you must know its story”. You could not find better exemplars of this than the staff at Fulham Palace.