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The pleasures of being a garden volunteer

by Jamie Atwell, garden volunteer

One of the great pleasures in working as a volunteer gardener at Fulham Palace is learning tips and tricks from head gardener Lucy Hart and her wonderful full-time team, particularly at this time of year when the garden is bursting with life.  These include leaving daffodils to die back before clearing and Chelsea chopping (cutting back by half at the time of Chelsea flower show) sedums and other flower herbaceous plants so they stay upright in the border without staking.   I’ve tried to carry over some of their helpful hints to my own patch at home but don’t think I’m ready to open to the public just yet!

The abundance and variety in the garden is well reflected in the produce available for sale from the market barrow in the walled garden – plants, cut flowers (sweet peas are my favourite at present) and plenty of healthy veg. Later in the summer, produce from the vinery will be available including aubergines, chillies and plenty of varieties of tomato.  Everything on offer is organic and what’s more it’s all grown right here at Fulham Palace! Sale proceeds are all ploughed back into the care and restoration of the garden. I can’t think of a better example of a virtuous circle.

Talk of the vinery and its produce reminds me of one particular item that Bonner, our new resident head of pest control (a.k.a. cat) will hopefully not be getting his paws on. I refer to the mouse melon (more commonly known as the cucamelon – Melothria scabra) which will also be available later this summer. Have a look in the vinery and see if you can spot it. It’s approximately the size of a grape but actually tastes of cucumber.

Any visit to the walled garden and vinery at present must include a look at our 150 year old Wisteria. Now in its second flush of the season it’s looking absolutely stunning. I well recall helping to prune it on a freezing day at the beginning of the year and it’s such a joy to see all the gardening team’s (full time and volunteers) efforts so well rewarded.