The Royal Parks team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (March issue below) which is displayed on the Park's public notice boards. 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 Chris Mason at [email protected]
The Park in March
Tree planting Trees are best planted in the winter months, avoiding hard frosts. In parkland areas new trees need to be higher than the deer can reach yet small enough to be physically handled. A 45 litre root ball and 2.5 m high tree is standard, but it depends a little on species.
When planted, protection from deer is given by a 3-sided guard or ‘tree-crate’, whilst rabbit and vole damage is served by a plastic tree ‘spiral’ wrapped around the 1st 50cm of the stem. It takes a few years for the roots to become established during which time they require frequent watering. In enclosures, where deer are absent and larger number of trees are required, it is easier to plant small trees known as ‘whips’. They cost a few pence each and are simply protected with a small ‘tree tube’. This tube not only offers rabbit and vole protection, but also creates a slightly warmer wind free environment whilst the tree is very small.
Horse ride repairs During March contractors are due to make some limited repairs to the horse rides. They will be working near Ladderstile Gate, Robin Hood Gate and Oak Lodge.
New generation pollards Many of the parks 1,400 ancient trees have been pollarded; this is a very old method of managing trees to produce a timber crop. Selected branches were cut off periodically for use as timber, and then allowed to re-grow. The pollards were cut above the grazing height of the deer or farm animals and this process stopped about 200 years ago.
Pollarding creates a squat form which is more stable than tall, etiolated trees and increases the likelihood of longevity. To ensure a future generation of veteran trees, we pollard a number of small young trees each year.
The trees respond better to selective removal of some branches and the retention of others to keep the vascular systems active. They might initially look a bit strange, given our modern expectation for trees to look smart and uniform, but recreating this traditional technique is essential for the long term conservation of the park’s ecology.
Frogs, toads and newts If you cycle through the park at night, watch out for amphibians on the road when it is wet. Frogs, toads and newts come out of hibernation to mate in the park’s ponds and they cross the road very slowly. If the weather has been dry and / or cold, the 1st wet mild evening in spring will see large numbers on the roads. Frogs and toads look much like leaves and newts look much like a small stick – please be careful not to squash any!
Badgers are common in the park and occupy several setts in various places. Being nocturnal and shy they are difficult to see, but it’s not uncommon to see one scurry away from the park roads or paths if disturbed very late at night.
In March they become more active and their babies are born. Badgers will roll balls of dried grass and bedding into their setts at this time of year and they also mate immediately after the young are born. As with some deer, badgers can delay fertilisation or the development of babies for up to 9 months.
Isabella Plantation in March
Heather garden Here Erica x darleyensis ranges throughout in its pink and white varieties. Erica erigena forms taller dense mounds and is represented by "W.T. Rackliff" which is white, and "Brightness" which has rose purple flowers and bronze leaves. Set back towards the top of the Heather Garden is Erica lusitanica, tallest of all, with white flowers opening from pink buds. Erica carnea ‘Myretoun Ruby’ has recently been planted near the Swamp Cyprus its deep reddish pink flowers brighten this spot from January to May.
Camellias Following the path which runs through woodland up the western side of the Garden you will find two of the many famous williamsii hybrid camellias: Camellia 'Donation', and C. 'Inspiration' near the ancient pollard oak. Nearby, the formal double white flowers, striped with red and pink, belong to Camellia japonica 'Lavinnia Maggi'. Camellias frequently produce 'sports', and you may find white, red and striped flowers all on the same plant. Camellia japonica ‘Preston Rose’ also grows in this area and bears salmon- pink paeony form flowers.
Camellia ‘Parkside’ another williamsii hybrid bearing an abundance of large clear pink semi double flowers grows in Magnolia grandiflora Glade, set back from Thomson’s Lawn. Another garden favourite, Camellia Japonica ‘Alba Simplex’ shows large white flowers with conspicuous yellow stamens and grows in many spots around the garden, including set back at the top of the main stream path.
Three Wilson plants Rhododendron lutescens, is an early-flowering rhododendron species from China, small leaves and primrose yellow blooms. Many of these plants grow set back to the east of the Main Stream. More, younger plants grow near the fence in Wilson’s Glade. Wilson’s Glade is situated to the north of the entrance gate from Broomfield Hill car park. It houses a collection of plants introduced to this country by the famous plant collector, Ernest Wilson. Also near the fence of the glade is a group of Stachyurus chinensis, a shrub with long drooping racemes of soft yellow flowers. Close to the main path through the glade is Corylopsis veitchiana, a large erect growing shrub that also bears its flowers in large racemes of primrose yellow with conspicuous brick red anthers.
Magnolias During March several magnolias come into flower. A fine Magnolia stellata stands near the path above Thomson's Pond. Many others are planted throughout the Garden, particularly in woodland areas on the western side. Two young Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ can be found growing in Bluebell Walk opposite Acer Glade. This large shrub or small tree bears lilac-pink flowers that are deeper in bud. A more mature form can be found growing on the other side of Acer Glade.by the Scots Pine.
Narcissi Growing on the wet lawn near the gate from Broomfield Hill car park, the dwarf Narcissus cyclamineus, native of Spain and Portugal, has pendent golden flowers with narrow trumpets and upward sweeping petals, reminiscent of a cyclamen bloom. Soon to follow on this lawn will be N. bulbocodium, commonly known as the ‘hooped petticoat’, due to its widely flared trumpet.
Other plants of interest The “Fuji Cherry”, Prunus incisa, grows set back behind the Witch Hazel’s on the path leading from the Broomfield Hill gate leading to the lawn above Thomson’s Pond. This lovely Japanese species bears small white flowers, which are pink-tinged in bud and appear pink from a distance.
Clematis armandii, an evergreen Clematis with creamy white flowers, grows up a dead tree in Beech Bay, the area between Thomson’s Pond and the Main Stream. Rhododendron sutchuense stands above the Still Pond, this outstanding Chinese shrub bears a profusion of large bell-shaped flowers which are a rosy-lilac in colour with purple spots. This Rhododendron is another Ernest Wilson introduction.
In the ‘V ‘ between the streams area look out for two stunning Rhododendrons grown for both their stunning flowers and bark: Rhododendron shilsonii which has loose trusses of bell shaped blood-red flowers and Rhododendron hylaeum with its pale pink flowers. R.calophytum ‘Robin Hood’ grows above these two rhododendrons, set back off the main stream path and bears large trusses of pale pink bell-shaped flowers with a maroon basal blotch.
Isabella Garden Walks
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:
March Friday 27th, Sunday 15th
April Friday 3rd & 24th, Sunday 19th
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.