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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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Mistletoe Walk

Mistletoe Walk

Start of Mistletoe Walk 2009

by Tyrrell Marris, Saturday 14th February 2009

Report & Photos by Pieter Morpurgo

View the photo gallery for this Walk

Over the past few years we have been so lucky with the weather for our regular Mistletoe Walk. This year was no exception, and the promise of another enjoyable February walk in Home Park brought out the crowds. It also happened to be Valentines Day. There were seventy of us as Tyrrell Marris, our regular walk leader, reminded us that while Mistletoe grows on trees, we should also look at the ground as well as the snowdrops and crocii were in abundance. The day always provides a surprise or two, and we were joined by Martin Einchcomb, the Nursery Manager at Hampton Court who later was to show us around the nurseries.

The first example of Mistletoe we saw was unusually at quite a low level, so we were able to see distinctly the bulge where the Mistletoe had attached itself. Birds, generally Black Caps and Mistlethrushes wipe their beaks after eating the sticky fruits and the seed sticks onto the bark. The other way it gets there is at the other end of the digestive process!

It is found on lateral branches, and develops two leaves in the first year, two more the next and so on until it has enough to make a cylindrical shape which we are used to seeing high up in many trees in the area. The next tree had some older Mistletoe which was just starting to flower in a very pretty yellow. Lime trees are particularly receptive to Mistletoe, with Home Park and Bushy Park being one of the most prolific places in London. Some boroughs have none at all. Even Kew Gardens has very little.

Buckingham Palace Gardens were given some of “our” mistletoe, but it is unrecorded at to whether it has taken there. One Lime just inside the formal gardens was spotted with Mistletoe within just a few years of the avenue being planted. Half the trees have the plant and all are there by the natural process. The plant is semi-parasitic. That is, it doesn’t harm any established tree, although it would weaken very young fruit trees. It draws liquids from the host tree, but doesn’t damage it otherwise.

There is no difference in the growth of trees with or without Mistletoe. The newly planted avenue along the Long Water doesn’t have any yet, but Mistletoe watchers are watching. The trees were only planted three or four years ago, so the first sign will be a good indication as to exactly how long it can take to start.

We walked through the gardens to the Privy Garden, and the newly restored Orangery garden and from there we had a great view of an impressive collection of Mistletoe through the chimneys of Hampton Court. This part of the walk ended at the False Acacia tree in the south west corner of the buildings where for the third year running while Tyrrell was explaining the process of how the birds deposit the seeds, a Mistlethrush appeared exactly on cue. Now if I had a suspicious nature I would suspect our walk leader of fixing things!

As there were so many of us we had to split into two groups to be shown the nursery area by Martin. They grow 57,500 summer bedding plants, and 48,000 autumn and winter plants for both the Hampton Court Palace Gardens and the gardens at Kensington Palace. It covers an acre and was started as a kitchen garden. In William and Mary’s time many exotic plants including melons and squashes were grown. The Victorians put in the glasshouses.

The site has been used for 400 years, and the growers try to manage with as few chemicals as possible. Pest control is done mainly by bugs eating smaller bugs! The nursery is the holder of the National Collection of Heliotropium. There is a wonderfully warm corridor with more than 350 tropical or sub-tropical plants. A joy on a cold February day. It was very good of Tyrrell and Martin to show us around and let us share some of their knowledge and enthusiasm. It was a most enjoyable morning.

Pieter Morpurgo, February 2009

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A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.Walk in Home Park- 2nd September

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