The Royal Parks' team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (February 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

New generation pollards Pollarding is a traditional technique for managing trees. When a broadleaf tree is cut, dormant buds grow forming multiple stems from the retained stem. When done at ground level in woodlands protected from deer and cattle it was known as coppicing and was generally a short rotation cycle of fast growing species, such as Hazel and Chestnut, producing a crop of thin straight poles every 3-7 years.

Where trees are cut above the grazing height of cattle and deer it is known as pollarding and slower growing species such as Oak were managed to produce a crop of larger structural timbers every 25 years or so. Most of the 5-700+ year old veteran oak trees in Richmond Park have survived so long because of they are Pollards and now support a large number of very rare invertebrates. However, these old trees will eventually die off (albeit over centuries rather than decades) and a new generation of trees with the same characteristics will be needed to provide the continuity of habitat for the rare invertebrate.

50 young Oak trees were pollarded in 2002 and have been re-pollarded this winter. In addition to these another 50 trees have been selected and pollarded for the first time. This work initially appears severe, but the trees quickly respond by producing new growth.

The first signs of spring? Phenology is the study of plant and animal events and how these are influenced by the seasons and climate. Serious phenologists keep a diary every year of their observations and would already have noted the following ‘1st’ for 2011: Woodpecker drumming, Song Thrush calling, wild Arum to emerge, Snowdrop and Hazel flower. When we come to the end of winter, especially long, cold winters, these early signs signal that spring is on its way. Listen out for your 1st Chiffchaff, the arrival of Swallows, Terns or other migratory birds or look for a daffodil flower or your favourite tree to come into leaf and remember it as your personal start of spring.

Grassland and bracken management plan Local press and the London Evening Standard featured positive articles in January regarding grazing in Richmond Park. The Grazing trial near Holly Lodge is now in its fourth year, and has shown that grazing traditional breed cattle in low densities does improve the grassland for wildflowers.

A management strategy for the Park’s grassland and bracken (which includes the benefits of grazing) has been drafted and is currently being considered by the relevant stakeholder groups. Their recommendations for implementation will be considered and incorporated within the next five-year management plan which will cover the years 2013-2017.

Deer cull With no predators and approximately 170 births annually, the deer population would increase beyond the Park's carrying capacity without human intervention. To prevent starvation and habitat destruction, the deer are selectively culled during November and again in February. This ensures a healthy herd of 630 with the correct balance of ages and sexes.

February in the Isabella Plantation

Trees and shrubs with coloured and textured bark
The pollarded willows on the banks of Peg's Pond are forms of Salix alba, with amber and red stems.
Yellow-stemmed dogwood, Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea', grows nearby under the weeping willow, and in the Bog Garden.
Red-stemmed dogwood, Cornus alba, is set back behind the heathers, and throughout the Bog Garden. Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ has orange and red stems which show throughout the winter months and can also be found in the Bog Garden.
The “River Birch”, Betula nigra, has papery shredding buff coloured bark. Two of these trees grow on the north side of the Main Stream; one above the Heather Garden and the other towards the top.
Three “Himalayan Birches”, B. jacquemontii, with striking white stems, stand on the lawn above Thomson's Pond.
The “Tibetan Cherry”, Prunus serrula, has gleaming mahogany-red bark beginning to peel into curly shreds. One is set back on the lawn to the north east of Thomson's Pond. Three other good specimens may also be found in Wilson’s Glade.
Acer hersii, at the north end of the Acer Glade path, is one of several 'snake bark' Acers in the garden.

Heather garden
Erica x darleyensis comes into flower in its pink and white forms.
Tawny seed heads of Erica vagans remain decorative all winter.
The tall “Portugal Heath”, Erica lusitanica, bears slightly fragrant tubular white flowers opening from pink buds throughout winter.
Clumps may be found towards the top of the Heather Garden, near the junction of Thomson's Stream and the Main Stream.
Nandina domestica “Sacred Bamboo”, is planted behind the heather in several places, is truly a plant for all seasons. Decorative evergreen leaves are tinged purple in spring and autumn, panicles of white flowers open in the summer to provide orange red berries throughout winter.

Flowering shrubs
Hamamelis mollis, the “Witch Hazel”, has fragrant yellow tassel flowers. Two large shrubs stand by the gate to Broomfield Hill.
Lonicera X purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is a shrubby honeysuckle which bears tiny white fragrant flowers throughout winter. A group of these shrubs grows by the Acer Glade path.
Rhododendron dauricum ‘Midwinter’ is a semi–evergreen or deciduous Rhododendron which grows on Bluebell Walk and looks stunning this month with its phlox purple flowers.
Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ flowers pink in bud and fades to white grows alongside the main stream path above the Bog Garden. The name refers to the one time practice of forcing this plant for decoration.
Camellia japonica ‘Nobilissima’, with white peony form flowers grows in the woodland ride to the north of Thomson’s Stream.
The williamsii hybrid Camellia ‘Parkside’ bears an abundance of semi-double flowers in a clear pink and can be found growing in the glade next to Thomson’s Lawn. Many other Camellias are beginning to flower around the gardens.
Cornus mas, the “Cornelian Cherry”, grows in the shelterbelt near the gate to disabled car park. It produces lots of small yellow flowers on the naked stems throughout February.

Look out for the daffodil Narcissus cyclamineus growing naturalised in the lawns to the left of the Top Gate which bare delicate rich golden pendulous flowers.

Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2011

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

February Friday 4th and 25th, Sunday 13th

March Friday 4th and 25th, Sunday 13th

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