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

May in the Park

Oak Processionary Moth May is the time of the year when the caterpillars of this Moth are on the move. So-called because of the caterpillar's striking habit of moving around in single file lines, the eggs of this alien insect pest hatch out in April. The caterpillars then change through six instars before retreating into heavily webbed nests in late June from which they emerge as adult moths.

First found in Richmond Park in 2009, if the population was allowed to grow out of control the caterpillars could cause major defoliation of the Park's oak trees. The caterpillars also have hairs which carry a toxin which can be a significant threat to human health, causing skin rashes, eye irritations and respiratory problems.

From May to July you may see people staring up at oak trees with binoculars, checking them for 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.

Ticks and Lyme disease The warm weather in April means that everything is growing early this year. Plant growth is a few weeks ahead of a typical year and providing cover for ticks that can attach themselves to deer, dogs or humans, potentially causing Lyme disease.

Whilst the chances of contracting the disease are low, symptoms can be serious so it’s worth taking sensible precautions. If you find a tick on you and develop cold/flu like symptoms it is precautionary to tell your doctor. Dogs can be prevented from getting ticks by using drops supplied in pet shops or vets.

A leaflet is available from Holly Lodge or for advice contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or see their website.

Where are the cows? You may have noticed that the cows have disappeared from their paddock. They have returned to Hounslow Heath to be looked after by the Hounslow Countryside Service who loan the cows to us. The Highland cow and two Dexters have done a fantastic job this winter of removing all the available forage and ‘opened up’ the grassland sward to allow more delicate species to flower this summer. They will return this autumn to continue their essential conservation work.

May blossoms  The Hawthorn is a small, scrubby native tree that is abundant in Richmond Park. Unlike Blackthorn it comes into leaf before the blossoms burst and when in full flower the white petals almost cover the green leaves underneath. With global warming it often flowers in late April, but it is such a powerful sight in May that the Hawthorn is also known simply as ‘May’.

There are many cultural references and sayings relating to May blossoms such as “April showers bring forth May flowers”. 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' means don’t stop wearing your winter vest until the Hawthorn blossoms appear – which ties in well with gardening advice to not plant frost tender plants until mid May.

This year it has proven to be good advice because following the warmest April on record, the Park suffered a light ground frost on the morning of 4th May!

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 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 ‘Amoena’, small bright magenta flowers
‘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
‘Kirin’ a pale pink “hose in hose” (flower within an flower)

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 bares 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.

Please help to support The Isabella Plantation Access Project by dropping your donations into the box by the gate (Information about the Project and donation boxes at the Broomfield Hill and Bottom Gate entrances to the Plantation).

Isabella Plantation Garden Walks 2011

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

Friday 27th May

Sunday 15th May

Walks last about 1.5 hours and are free of charge. Meet inside the Garden by the gate from Broomfield Hill car park at 11am.

© The Royal Parks