2021 was the second year of the global Covid-19 pandemic. As in 2020, much of the year was subject to varying levels of government-mandated restrictions limiting many activities and interactions. Throughout the year, the Friends of Queen’s Park Gardens complied with government requirements to ensure that gardening was carried out safely to protect themselves and others from the risk of catching or spreading the virus.
Although these individuals weren’t officially volunteering as part of FQPG, they spent a combined total of 567 hours gardening in Queen’s Park Gardens in 2021 and their activities are included here in the FQPG Annual Report, because they took on gardening work that would in other circumstances have been carried out by FQPG.
These informal gardening sessions took place on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The individual volunteers who opted to garden in Queen’s Park Gardens during the pandemic chose to do so because of their enjoyment of gardening as well as the considerable benefits of gardening exercise for their physical health and mental wellbeing.
They also wanted to make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of people in the local community, by ensuring that the garden continued to be well-maintained and as beautiful as possible – something they felt was particularly important during a period of heightened stress for many people, and when so many other leisure venues were closed and activities banned because of Covid.
During periods of tightened restrictions, physical distancing was maintained by the gardening volunteers, with people working mostly in separate beds and using their own tools (rather than FQPG tools).
Other FQPG gardeners came separately at other times, doing activities such as filling the bird feeders.
Our planting schemes are designed to be largely self-sustaining with the aim of maximising impact while taking account of our limited financial resources and the small number of volunteers we have.
During 2021, the volunteer gardeners continued to maintain existing areas of FQPG work, as well as developing new beds, chosen because of their high visibility within the garden.
Triangular rose bed (by Fourth Avenue entrance)
This is the most mature of the flower beds gardened by the FQPG volunteers, with a mix of rose bushes, spring-flowering bulbs, lavender and other low-level bedding plants and perennials. In 2021 we planted six new rose bushes (three David Austin Hyde Hall and three David Austin GertrudeJekyll), purchased on our behalf by Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) with funding from HCGA/Queen’s Park Community Council (QPCC); planted two additional rose bushes kindly donated by Phil Weitzman and Henie Lustgarten; maintained the other rose bushes, which make up most of the bed, including regular dead-heading and pruning, which successfully prolonged their flowering season from spring into the late autumn; grew marigolds from seed and collected the seeds at the end of the season for planting and flowering in 2022; planted crocus and daffodil bulbs for flowering in spring 2022, adding to bulbs planted in previous years; dug, weeded, watered and hunted for bindweed a lot!
Circular flowerbed (by Third Avenue entrance)
This bed is in a very visible location, especially for people arriving from Third Avenue. It was first adopted by the FQPG volunteers in 2019, after several years of being overgrown with weeds. Planting in 2019 and 2020 included a range of spring-flowering bulbs and seeds for a mix of perennials and annuals, which continued flowering.
We maintained and tended the bed, including weeding, watering and cutting back plants throughout the spring and summer to extend the flowering season; pruned the central bush – a big thank you to Nigel Snuggs on a very wobbly ladder; planted tulip, crocus and daffodil bulbs for flowering in spring 2022; planted Nigella seeds donated by Charlotte Chesney for flowering in summer 2022.
Railings bed (along the play area close to Fourth Avenue entrance)
This bed is in a prominent position, especially for people arriving in the garden from Fourth Avenue and for the many families and children who use the play area. It is a narrow, shallow bed, which makes it hard to grow many plants, with the added challenge of squirrels and foxes, which seem to enjoy digging up everything that is planted there.
We are very grateful to Claire Hickey, who brought new life to the bed in 2020. Her efforts during 2021 have helped transform the bed and she also donated many of the plants in the bed. We wowed marigold seeds, collected from the previous year: grew calendula, rudbeckia and Californian poppies from seed, along with sweet alyssum, pink dianthus, chrysanthemums, verbena and nicotiana, many of which were donated by the volunteer gardeners; enriched the bed with compost from our compost heap; planted daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs and bluebell seeds in the autumn for flowering in spring 2022, in addition to bulbs planted in 2020 and weeded a lot.
Thank you to David Sears at Westminster Council for providing edging along the inner rim of the bed.
Benches bed (along the main path from Third Avenue entrance to Fourth Avenue entrance)
This is a highly-visible bed which was an eyesore or several years, with only a few straggly shrubs and a lot of weeds. Due to the overhang of some large London plane trees, it is a very shady bed, which makes it unsuitable for many plants.
In 2020, the gardening volunteers decided to revitalise the bed by planting spring bulbs and wallflowers, which first flowered in spring 2021.
We continued to maintain and develop the bed by Planting evergreen plants that thrive in shadier woodland positions and flower at different times of year, including camellias, ferns, hellebores, foxgloves and daphne, pruning existing shrubs and bushes, digging over the ground area and enriched the soil with compost from our compost heap, planting daffodil and tulip bulbs, for first blooming in spring 2022, adding to bulbs planted in2020 which had their first flowering in 2021.
With a focus on attracting pollinators, insects and birds, the aim of the Wildlife Area is to provide a natural environment with native English plants – in other words to create a corner of countryside in central London. As an enclosed area within the park, it is regularly used by local nursery schools.
For many years, it has been at the heart of the gardening work carried out by the Friends of Queen’s Park Gardens. However, this became more challenging during 2020 and 2021 for a number of reasons, especially during the Covid lockdowns, when schools and many other sports and leisure venues were closed.
The increased use of the wildlife area by local residents and other visitors for picnics, exercise and as a place for children to play made it more difficult for gardeners to work with appropriate physical distancing. As a result, less work was carried out in the Wildlife Area than would normally be the case. While it was wonderful that the garden was so popular and appreciated as a green space, the increased use of the wildflower meadow made it more difficult for plants to thrive and many died. Several weeks of drought in both 2020 and 2021 also impacted on the growing season. In addition, the garden sadly suffered from quite a bit of vandalism, especially in 2020, with long- term consequences.
In 2021, we focused on revitalising the Wildlife Area and in particular the wildflower meadow by sowing seeds collected from plants growing in other parts of the gardens during the winter and spring; transplanting wildflower plants from the more formal triangular rose bed, where they were unwanted ‘weeds’ to help regenerate the wildflower meadow – an excellent example of our holistic approach to gardening by recycling plants within the garden; transplanted plants from the Rose Garden (which is tended by HCGA) into the wildflower meadow with the agreement and advice of Ulla Johnson at HCGA; planted foxgloves and teasels in the wildflower meadow, generously donated by Charlotte Chesney in the autumn for flowering in 2022; Repaired damage caused by vandals wherever possible and cleared away broken trees and plants where the damage was irreparable, including the much-loved willow dome; maintained the compost and leaf mulch heaps – using the results to enrich the soil in other parts of the garden; cleared leaves in the autumn to make the paths safer for visitors and improve growth in the
wildflower meadow. The leaves were added to the compost heap, where they will mulch down to be used for enriching the soil in future years.
We would like to give particular thanks to Westminster Council and their contractors at Continental for providing a long hose pipe, which extends from the tap in the yard by the park hut to the Wildlife Area. From mid-summer, this transformed our ability to water the wildflower meadow and other areas in the gardens, considerably reducing the time needed for filling and carrying watering cans from bed to bed.
Thank you also to Westminster Council and Continental for rebuilding the two compost bins, replacing the previous ones, which had rotted away over time, and to Ulla Johnson and HCGA for arranging for the compost heaps to be turned.
Other activities included pruning the hedge alongside the Wildlife Area and providing general gardening and maintenance support in other parts of the garden, including leaf sweeping and litter picking.
Special Events in Queen’s Park Gardens
Queen’s Park Summer Festival (7 August 2021)
The Queen’s Park Summer Festival, held in Queen’s Park Gardens and organised by Queen’s Park Community Council, is one of the highlights of the neighbourhood calendar with a wide range of stalls and live entertainment for local residents and visitors of all ages.
The Friends of Queen’s Park Gardens hosted a stall and organised activities for families at the 2021 QPCC Summer Festival. This followed a year (2020) when the festival had been cancelled due to Covid-19. Despite heavy rain in the morning, the festival was very well-attended in the afternoon.
Queen’s Park Winter Festival (4 December 2021)
The Winter Festival is another event organised by QPCC and held in Queen’s Park Gardens. As part of the preparations for the QPCC Winter Festival, Friends of Queen’s Park Gardens volunteers took part in the Gardens Clean-up Session organised by QPCC, collecting litter and raking up leaves. The litter was divided into recyclables and general rubbish.
As in previous years, we have been indebted to the generosity of many supporters, including our partner organisations listed above.
We would like to give particular thanks to Simon Walton and Claire Hickey and also to Nigel Snuggs, Helen Mulvein and Charlotte Chesney, who have all made an outstanding contribution to Queen’s Park Gardens, gardening on cold wet days as well as in sunny weather throughout the year, bringing huge benefits to the many local people who use the gardens.
A big thank you to Nigel, Charlotte and Claire for their many donations of plants and seeds, which have added diversity and colour to our planting in many parts of the garden.
Without them and the other volunteers, the gardens would have become neglected and overgrown with weeds, while other plants would have died off from lack of watering.
Feedback from park users
One of the greatest pleasures we enjoy when we are gardening is the chance to meet other visitors to the gardens.
The gardens have been much used during the year, especially at times when other leisure venues were closed due to Covid restrictions. Many people have made a point of stopping and thanking the volunteer gardeners, expressing their appreciation of their work to make the park a more pleasant and safer place to be.
We are happy to have begun official gardening sessions in spring 2022. If you would like to join our mailing list for info about our public gardening sessions, please use our contact form.
A full report from our AGM is here.
Ulla’s Thursday morning gardening session have continued as soon as restrictions were lifted enough to allow. More details here.
Friends of Queen’s Park Gardens