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Isabella Plantation - a garden for all seasons - Richmond Park

The Isabella Plantation is now an ornamental woodland garden, full of exotic plants, that is designed to be interesting all year round. But its name suggests a far humbler origin.

In the 17 th century, this area in the south west corner of Richmond Park was known as The Sleyt. This is the name usually used for boggy ground or an open space between woods or banks.

By 1771, it is shown on maps as Isabella Slade . Isabella may have been the wife or daughter of a member of staff. But it is more likely to be a corruption of the word isabel, which was used as far back as the 15th century to mean dingy or greyish yellow - the colour of the soil in this part of the park.

In 1831, Lord Sidmouth, the park deputy ranger, fenced off 17ha (42 acres) of the Isabella Slade . He planted oak, beech and sweet chestnut trees as a crop for timber and gave the area the name it has today.

The present garden of clearings, ponds and streams was established from the 1950s onwards. It is largely the work of George Thomson , the park superintendent from 1951-1971. Along with his head gardener, Wally Miller, he removed Rhododendron ponticum from large areas and replaced it with other rhododendron species. They established evergreen Kurume Azaleas around the Still Pond and planted other exotic shrub and tree species. The main stream through the garden from Broomfield Gate was dug in 1960 and the plantation was enlarged to include Peg's Pond. More recently, in 1989, a wild stream was dug in the northern section and this has now been colonized by ferns, water plantains and brook lime. The Bog Garden was reconstructed in 2000.

The garden now has 15 known varieties of deciduous azalea and houses the national collection of 50 Kurume Azaelas, introduced to the west around 1920 by the plant collector, Ernest Wilson . There are also 50 different species of rhododendron and 120 hybrids.

In spring, visitors can see camellias, magnolias, as well as daffodils and bluebells. From late April, the azaleas and rhododendrons are in flower. In summer, there are displays of Japanese irises and day lilies. By autumn, guelder rose, rowan and spindle trees are loaded with berries and leaves on the acer trees are turning red. Even in winter, the gardens have scent and colour. There are early camellias and rhododendron, as well as mahonia, winter-flowering heathers and stinking hellebore.

Isabella Plantation is now run on organic principles. Its luscious ground cover and mature trees make good habitat for wildlife and it is part of the Richmond Park Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a particularly good place to see birds. Resident species include redpoll, bullfinch, wood pecker, sparrow hawk and tawny owl. There are water fowl, such as pintail, tufted duck and pochard. Visiting birds include: wood warbler, redstart and whitethroat in spring; blackcap and spotted flycatcher in summer, green sandpiper in autumn and siskin and reed bunting in winter.
The Image was recently taken to appreciate fall colours

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Photo Information
  • Copyright: Balwant Thanki (Balwant) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 105 W: 3 N: 84] (588)
  • Genre: Lugares
  • Medium: Color
  • Date Taken: 2010-11-03
  • Categories: Naturaleza
  • Exposición: f/11
  • More Photo Info: view
  • Versión de la foto: Versión original
  • Date Submitted: 2010-11-09 2:39
Viewed: 1466
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Additional Photos by Balwant Thanki (Balwant) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 105 W: 3 N: 84] (588)
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