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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Park in March
The Holly Lodge Centre is 20 years old! This independent charity, based next to the Park offices, provides educational services in Richmond Park, particularly for people with special needs. The two members of staff are supported by 70 volunteers who help by leading groups, maintaining the facilities, raising funds, IT support and in many other roles.
Rowan is a small tree found infrequently in the Park. Also known as Mountain Ash it grows happily in exposed places and has leaves similar to Common Ash, although the two are not related. Its delicate white blossom may be less striking than Hawthorn and Cherry but the scarlet red berries provide vivid colour in early autumn and support a variety of insects and birds.
In folklore the colour red was thought to be effective at guarding from evil and was therefore associated with protection. Often planted near the home it would protect it from lightning strikes. It would also bring luck for those starting a family and a walking stick made from rowan wood guards the wayfarer from becoming lost. These practices support an old saying ‘Woe to those with no Rowan tree near’. The association with the home continues today as the Rowan’s size, colour and shape makes it a popular tree for small suburban gardens and streets.
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 first 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 – be careful not to squash any!
High winds The media reported that January was the wettest on record and high winds added to Park issues. With saturated soil about 40 trees were blown over from the roots. Winds prior to Christmas uprooted fewer trees but left many broken branches. The high winds and wet soil also blew over a short stretch of park wall by Petersham Gate.
The Isabella Plantation in March
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.
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, with 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.
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.
Growing on the wet lawn near the gate from Broomfield Hill car park, the dwarf Narcissus cyclamineus, a 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 Hazels on the path leading from the Broomfield Hill gate 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 magnificent 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 Plantation Garden Walks 2014
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:
March Friday 7th and 28th, Sunday 16th
April Friday 4th and 25th, Sunday 20th
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.