Fulham Palace head gardener Lucy Hart

Fulham Palace set to plant 80 species from 300 years ago

A new planting scheme inspired by the past will be unveiled at Fulham Palace this spring.

Months of work have gone into creating the new beds which are filled with plants first used in the garden by the former Bishop of London, Henry Compton in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Former Bishop of London, Henry Compton
Henry Compton, Bishop of London from 1675 to 1713

The passionate plantsman is the inspiration behind the ‘Cultivating Compton’ planting area at the Grade I-listed property, which will include 80 species of plants from the tiny, white ‘Dutchman’s breeches’ to magnificent magnolias.

While Compton was the Bishop of London from 1675 to 1713, he used his position and travels to bring plants from all over the Caribbean, Africa, India and North America back to England.

Planting the past

Fulham Palace head gardener Lucy Hart has been working with botanist and curator Dr Mark Spencer to track down the plants that would have filled the grounds more than three centuries ago.

“Exploring Compton has been fascinating, I really had no idea what an important role he had in shaping our gardens and there is still so much more to learn,” explains Dr Spencer.

“My personal favourite discovery was that he had a penchant for spicy food and put flowers in his salad – three centuries before it became trendy!”

Lucy Hart then began to source the plants from nurseries and botanic gardens across the UK and as far afield as Cape Town in South Africa.

“Sourcing Compton’s plants from botanic gardens and nurseries has been an exciting challenge,” she says.

Volunteers preparing Fulham Palace planting scheme
Volunteers hand making wattle fencing from hazel wands to surround the new beds. PICTURE:JAMIE ATWELL

“I’ve really enjoyed talking to expert growers about the project, many of whom are already aware of Compton’s introductions.

“I’m very proud to be replanting the species he once grew here, and taking our botanical collections to the next level.”

Walled garden

Volunteers have been helping to prepare the new planting scheme, which runs along the outside of Fulham Palace’s walled garden facing the river, hand making wattle fencing from hazel wands to surround the new beds.

Lucy now plans to travel to the US this year to collect seeds from Virginia which will be planted in the new beds, before it opens in June.

The planting is being undertaken as part of a larger £3.8m restoration project which is part-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Volunteers hand making wattle fencing from hazel wands
Volunteers helping to prepare the new planting scheme. PICTURE: ALEXIS HASLAM

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