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Heritage 'Gardener's Questiontime' from St Fagans Gardens

Juliet Hodgkiss, 28 April 2020

Juliet Hodgkiss is Senior Garden Conservator for Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. She leads a dedicated team of gardeners and volunteers at St Fagans, who care for the gardens and their special heritage plant collections. In response to an increased interest our own gardens and a growing yearning for the beauty of some of our nations’ magnificent great gardens during lockdown, over the past few days we’ve been collecting your questions for Juliet about her work. Here are her answers in our ‘heritage’ version of Gardener’s Questiontime.

What's the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is being paid to work in such beautiful gardens.We have such a great variety of gardens, I’m doing something different every day. I also get to meet so many great people through my work - staff, volunteers, visitors, fellow gardeners and more.

Which of St Fagans' gardens is your favourite and why?

This time of year, my favourite part of the gardens is the area by the ponds. Throughout spring, the terrace banks are covered with spring bulbs; daffodils, bluebells and fritillaries, all above a carpet of anemones.  The magnificent Magnolia ‘Isca’ comes into flower first, followed by the cherries and the apples. The latest tree to flower is the Davidia with its giant white bracts, which sway in the breeze, giving its name of the handkerchief tree.​

​Which is the rarest plant in the collection?

One of the rarest plants we have is the Bardou Job rose, which was one of the original roses in the Rosery. This was thought to be extinct, then it was re-discovered by a group of rose enthusiasts growing in the old garden of the head warder on Alcatraz! They propagated from it, and sent us over 6 roses to grow in our gardens.

We also have a collection of heritage potatoes, donated to us by the Scottish Agricultural Research Agency. One of the potatoes we grow is the Lumper, the potato grown at the time of the Irish potato famine. These cannot be bought, so we have to grow them each year to maintain our collection.

Which is the most difficult plant you have to tackle - one that is hardest to maintain?

The most difficult plants to keep are the heritage potatoes. We have to grow these every year to maintain our collection, and most of these old varieties are very susceptible to blight, so require careful management to ensure a good crop.

Which is the most difficult plant to control?

The hardest plant to control is Oxalis, a persistent weed with a clover-like leaf, which multiplies by means of bulbils. These bulbils are spread when the soil is cultivated. It is virtually impossible to eradicate. After years spent trying to weed it out, we now keep it under control with ground cover planting and mulching.

Which is your favourite time of the year in the garden?

My favourite time of year is spring, with the spring bulbs, blossoming trees, the ferns unfurling their fronds, and all the plants in the garden bursting into growth. Everything looks fresh and new, and we gardeners are full of hope for a great year ahead in the garden.

Comments(1)

Pamela Richards
4 February 2022, 10:01
I am interested in volunteering at st fagans with Juliet Hodgekiss and her team of volunteers.
I have previously been a volunteer a good few years ago.
I have now retired and would like to come back
Thank you
Pam Richards

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