The Royal Parks' team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (December issue below) which is displayed on the Park's public noticeboards. If you are a member of the Friends and would like to receive these monthly diaries by email, please send your name and email address to

Pines and needles This year The Royal Parks have given permission for Christmas trees to be sold from Roehampton Gate car park (SW15 5JR). They will be open at weekends only during November but then every day from 1st December until Christmas Eve from 08.00 until 15.45. They will be selling a selection of UK grown trees and decorations etc and can even arrange local delivery.

Christmas trees Arguably the origins of the Christmas tree date back to 723 AD near Fritzlar in central Germany when Saint Boniface felled ‘Thor’s Oak’, a veteran tree and sacred to the pagans. Boniface declared a small fir tree growing at the base of Thor’s Oak to be symbolic of the Christian faith replacing paganism and declared: 

"This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households.
Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light.
Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your Comfort and Guide."

The tradition of Christmas trees stayed in Germany for many years but eventually spread worldwide. In the early 19th century, the custom became popular amongst the nobility and spread to royal courts across Europe. In Britain the Christmas tree was introduced by George III's wife Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, but the custom did not spread much beyond the Royal Court. Queen Victoria wrote in her journal when 13 years old "After dinner…there were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees." The custom became fashionable and wide spread following Victoria’s marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert in 1839. In 1847, Prince Albert wrote: "I must now seek in the children an echo of what my brother and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be" A print showing the Royal family around their tree published in the “Illustrated London News” in 1848 is often credited as the start of the Christmas tree fashion in Britain.

The Royal Parks' budget cuts  With the recent media coverage regarding the governments comprehensive spending review, it comes as no surprise that The Royal Parks government grant will be reduced by C.36% over the next 5 years. In response to the challenge, the Royal Parks is focussing its efforts in the following areas:

• Maintain as far as possible core park services (although maintenance will be reduced and the existing works backlog of £56m will inevitably increase);
• Reducing, cutting or outsourcing non-core activities
• Streamlining and targeting specialist park services in areas of most need and impact
• Preserving and marshalling capacity in income generating areas (like events, retail and catering)

Updated information will be provided on

The Isabella Plantation in December

Winter flowers 

Hamamelis mollis, the “Witch Hazel”, has very fragrant yellow tassel flowers. Two large shrubs stand by the gate to Broomfield Hill.
Mahonia bealii, whose racemes of yellow flowers smell like “Lily-of the Valley”, can be found set back in woodland to the south of the Acer Glade.
Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ can be found by the Bluebell Walk on the east of the Acer Glade, at this time of year it bears fragrant cream-coloured flowers.
Camellia sasanqua ‘Plantation Pink’, in the woodland glade above the source of Thompson’s Stream, bears slightly scented, single, pale pink flowers with yellow stamens.
Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’, the “Autumn Cherry”, can be found growing set back from the path leading to Wilson’s Glade from the top gate. Following autumn tints to the leaves, this small tree produces semi-double, white flowers from November to March.
Garrya eliptica grows alongside the Main Stream path, this evergreen shrub bears long greyish green catkins at this time of year.
Sarcococca confusa, a small evergreen shrub grows alongside the Main Stream and produces very fragrant white flowers this month.
A single stand of Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ grows in a glade just off the Main Stream this upright shrub bears densely packed clusters of sweetly scented, rose-tinted flowers throughout the cold winter months.

Trees and shrubs with coloured and textured bark

Salix alba 'Chermesina' ('Britzensis'), the pollarded willows by Peg's Pond, have amber and red stems.
Cornus sericea var.'Flaviramea' nearby under the weeping willow, and also adjacent to the Bog Garden, has smooth greenish yellow stems.
Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ has bright red stems. Two groups are set back behind the heather, others in the Bog Garden.
Betula nigra, the “River Birch”, has papery shredding buff coloured bark. One may be found by the path above the Heather Garden, and the other towards the top of the Main Stream.
Betula jacquemontii, three young birches with striking white bark stand on the lawn above Thomson's Pond. Several multi-stemmed forms of this tree can be found in the woodland area near the wild stream in the northern part of the Garden.
Prunus serrula, set back on the lawn east of Thomson's Pond, has gleaming mahogany-red bark peeling into curly shreds.
Several 'snake-bark' acers may be found throughout the Garden as well as other species of birch, all with interesting bark.
Acer griseum, the “Paperbark Maple” grows in the wet lawn area by the top gate and also in Wilson’s Glade, as well as other areas of the garden. This beautiful tree not only has good autumn colour but also a great colour to its trunk, which is particularly obvious in the winter months, as the old bark peels off to expose the cinnamon coloured underbark.

Heather garden

Erica X darleyensis comes into flower this month in its pink and white forms.Erica vagans, the Cornish Heath, has tawny seed heads which remain decorative all winter.Erica lusitanica, the tall Portugal Heath, bears slightly fragrant tubular white flowers opening from pink buds throughout the winter.Nandina domestica, the “Sacred Bamboo”, provides a stunning backdrop to the heathers in this area, its leaves tinge red in autumn and winter and it also bears a profusion of spherical red fruits.

A bird feeder has been placed on Bluebell Walk to feed over-wintering garden residents and visitors. In addition to this, the water fowl on the ponds are fed on corn throughout the winter months. Meanwhile, the gardeners are busy preparing beds and planting out trees and shrubs within the Garden.

Isabella Garden Walks 2010/2011

You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year.
Walks will take place on:

December Friday 3rd, Sunday 12th
January Friday 7th & 28th, Sunday 16th

Walks last about one and a half hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.

© The Royal Parks