The Royal Parks team in Richmond Park produces a monthly diary (May 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]
Richmond Park in May
Oak processionary moth May is the time of year when the caterpillars of this invasive Moth are on the move. The hairs of the caterpillars carry a toxin which can be a threat to human health, causing skin rashes, eye irritation and respiratory problems. In high numbers the caterpillars can also cause defoliation of oak trees.
In late April/early May pesticide spraying will take place on oaks in busy areas and those where they have been previously heavily infested. This will be followed by careful surveying of the whole park in June and July to locate nests which are then removed by specialist operatives using protective clothing and equipment. If you come across the caterpillars or their webbed nests please do not touch them and keep children and pets away. Report any sightings to the Park office on 0300 061 2200.
The common whitethroat This is a small bird that migrates to the UK for the summer to breed. They are a grey–brown colour and obviously get their name from their white throats. Males have a dark grey head whilst the females do not and the throat of the female is duller. In the late 1960s the numbers crashed by 70% due to a drought in its over wintering grounds, but the population has grown steadily since.
Numbers have risen in Richmond Park and for the past few years it has supported around 35 pairs. They will skulk in small scrubby areas such as a hawthorn or a mature patch of bramble that provides cover for their nest. They are best spotted by listening for the males as they perch high up and sing a pleasant song that is best described as ‘jolting and scratchy’ – heralding the start of summer!
Park road closures Richmond Gate is due to be closed from 20.00hrs on Friday 15th May until gate opening on Monday 18th May. This is to allow a crane operation on Star and Garter Hill and will be subject to a revised date if it is too windy.
This year the Park will be closed of 2nd August and 20th September for the Ride London and Duathlon events.
On Sunday 1st November, Roehampton Gate and the roads between Sheen Cross and Robin Hood Gate will be closed for a running event.
May Day 1st May and the first bank holiday. The history is thought to date back to pre-Christian activities linked to the coming of summer, when flowers are in bloom. May Day can be considered as the 1st day of summer, with the summer solstice (22nd July) being mid-summers night. In agriculture, it was desirable to have planted all the farms seeds by May Day and a public holiday was regarded as a reward to the farm labourer’s for their efforts to achieve this. May Day is often celebrated by a village fair centred around traditional dancing and the crowning of a May Queen by the community. Morris dancing is popular but May Pole dancing has greater links to this date – the may pole being linked to Hawthorn trees that are also known as ‘ May’ because of their abundant blossoms at this time of year.
The Isabella Plantation in May
The peak flowering season for rhododendrons and azaleas.
Rhododendrons On the lawn above Thomson’s Pond are two beds planted with the Japanese species, Rhododendron yakushimanum, amongst a group of its hybrids, named after the Seven Dwarfs: Sneezy, Grumpy etc. These plants are compact and very floriferous. Also, seek out the tall ‘Loderi’ hybrid ‘King George’, with its large soft pink flowers which are sweetly fragrant. It grows in a number of places in the Garden, but most notably set back above the Still Pond.
Follow the Small Stream down from the Still Pond to discover Rhododendron williamsiananum, a compact species with attractive bronze young shoots, distinctive heart shaped leaves and bell-shaped, shell-pink flowers. Look out for Rhododendron ‘Bibiani’ growing in a number of areas in the garden; this shrub produces compact trusses of rich crimson funnel shaped flowers with maroon spots.
Evergreen azaleas Easy to identify are:
• ‘Orange Beauty’, the most orange of all
• ‘Rosebud’, opening buds resemble tiny roses
• ‘Palestrina’, white with a faint ray of green
• ‘Vuyk’s Scarlet’, large flowers of a deep silky red
• ‘Hinode Giri’, bright crimson, around the Still Pond
Deciduous azaleas These flower slightly later and often have a rich spicy smell, particularly Azalea pontica, (Rhododendron luteum), which is yellow and to be found by the gate to Broomfield Hill.
The bog garden Look out for Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’, growing in the bed by the middle pond, it bears orange-red flowers and has a reddish tinge to the emerging young shoots. Alongside the margins of pools and streams grows the “Japanese Primrose”, Primula japonica ‘Millers Crimson’ with its whorls of crimson flowers, which are borne in profusion on tall stems from May to July. Also present are the young fronds of the “Shuttlecock Fern”, Matteuccia struthiopteris which show an attractive fresh green.
Growing either side of the main pool is the “Ornamental Rhubarb”, Rheum Palmatum, a robust herbaceous perennial with broad, architectural foliage and pink flowers on large erect panicles.
The native tree, the “Whitebeam”, Sorbus aria grows near the Broomfield Hill gate and looks particularly attractive at this time of the year with its silvery-white young leaves. Skimmia japonica can also be found growing near this gate along the path that leads onto Camellia Walk and the Still Pond.
The “Foxglove Tree”, Paulownia tomentosa stands in the glade between the Still Pond and Old Nursery Glade. This large leaved tree bares sprays of fragrant foxglove-like pinkish-lilac flowers in Spring.
The “Pocket Handkerchief Tree”, Davidia involucrata, set back from the Camellia Walk, has intriguing white hanging bracts. Another specimen may be found in a secluded lawn to the southeast of Thomson’s Pond.
The “Snowdrop Tree”, Halesia carolina, with dangling white bell flowers, stands by the path above Thomson’s Pond.
Cornus nuttallii, whose white bracts appear like flowers, can be found set back in the newly planted Magnolia Glade near the Ham Gate entrance. Also look out for the pale lemon yellow fragrant flowers of Magnolia wilsonii ‘Yellow Fever’ and the wonderful deep purple flowers of Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’.
Bluebells carpet the wilder fringes of the Garden. PLEASE KEEP TO THE PATHS TO AVOID TRAMPLING THEM.
Wheelchair available A motorised wheelchair, which makes the job of pushing considerably easier, may be loaned for use within the Garden on weekdays between 9.00 and 15.00. Please ring 0300 061 2200 to book the chair by noon on the day before it is required.
New Isabella Plantation guide A new colour guide is now available to purchase for £1. You can pick up a copy from the Pembroke Lodge Information Centre, on an Isabella walk or from one of the garden team.
Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2015
You are invited to join the gardeners for guided walks throughout the year. Walks will take place on:
May Friday 29th, Sunday 10th
June Friday 5th and 26th, Sunday 14th
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.