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Decorative Planting in the Park

Decorative Planting in the Park

Flowers in Hyde Park

HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 1921- 2021

We were very sorry to learn of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. He touched many lives in this country over such a long time. The coverage in the media was a revelation and showed so much of what he achieved during his long life and how he managed this despite a very difficult childhood.

The Royal Parks especially have reflected these links both in their history as royal hunting grounds and also beautifully designed palace gardens. They have become a world-famous attraction for visitors to this country who love and admire the present-day form of this important legacy.

His son, HRH The Prince of Wales, became patron of the Royal Parks charity when it was launched in July 2017. He takes a great interest and visits often quietly and informally, to meet, for example, the apprentices and to thank the gardeners and cleaners. He is particularly interested in the trees and the wild flower areas.

If, like me, you were watching on TV the commentators standing in front of Buckingham Palace and reporting to the world, you too may have been impressed by the blaze of gold from the flower beds in front of the Palace. These are the responsibility of the Royal Parks, especially Mark Wasilewski the manager of St James’s and the Green Parks.

The planting is two colours of wallflowers, yellow in the outer and orange in the inner beds. Red tulips were popping up, but as these are left-overs from last year the “proper” ones are just opening up now. All the plants were grown at our Super Nursery in Hyde Park.

You may remember that last year these beds were planted with blue and white flowers to represent the NHS.

Tete a Tete in the Park

Hyde Park assistant manager, Phil Newcombe, is our horticultural specialist and I am grateful to him for keeping me (and therefore all of you) up to date with news of the latest things he’s been carrying out to improve and repair some tricky areas of the Park.
!/perch/resources/flowers-hyde-park-2-w420.jpeg(Meadow close to ‘Will to Win’ (27th April))!

You may have noticed different attempts to create a Meadow in the grassy area close to ‘Will to Win’ at the south end of West Carriage Drive. It was dominated by invasive plants and “Fat Hen” had taken over. Now, the dated photographs demonstrate not only the attractiveness of the new planting but also the planning for subsequent sequential flowering.

In December 2020 a Dutch specialist piece of kit, complete with driver, was hired to plant thousands of bulbs sourced in Lincolnshire. The “kit” is a small tractor and a hook-on hopper and cutter which somehow opens up the turf and then recloses it over the bulb. Apparently, this skilled duo travels round the country wherever large-scale natural looking planting is needed.

Swathes of tete a tete

The narcissi were looking remarkably good in early April despite the late planting. The skill is in producing lovely swathes in a relaxed shape. How many broken backs did this save?

The area closer to the bowling green was more tricky as so much of it is waterlogged. Phil has tried a mix of anemone blanda, iris reticulata, crocus, chionodoxa, muscari, scilla, botanical narcissus and botanical tulips.

!/perch/resources/flowers-hyde-park-4-w420.jpeg(Mixed planting by ‘Will to Win’‘ (6th April))!

It is looking delicate and lovely and well worth a close inspection (though the strong sunshine may be hastening its end for this season). I hope some of you may have noticed these and enjoyed them as much as I have, particularly as they are aimed at us on foot! Phil hopes, and I support him, that there will be enough in the budget to repeat the exercise.

Rambling with Clare

Journalist and broadcaster, Clare Balding, was commissioned by a local hotel to produce a podcast for their guests to introduce them to the delights of both Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. It was to be along the lines of Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ programme which I always enjoy.

I was asked if I would be prepared to walk and talk to Clare about parts of the Parks which they hoped their guests would enjoy. How could I say No? A small very efficient team met me in the hotel before we all set off and we did exactly as you imagine when you listen to the programme.

Rambling with Clare

Clare chatted and was a very relaxed and warm personality (despite it being one of those very icy days earlier in April). They added on a few bits of my favourite locations, which they may or may not use in the final version.

The sound person followed on some way behind and Clare, who, with eyes almost in the back of her head, was able to pick up signals if anything needed repeating or she needed to change sides with me. This was all managed seamlessly. It was altogether a very interesting and enjoyable morning with a nice bunch of people.

Clare has recently agreed to be joint patron of Richmond Park with David Attenborough (two national treasures for one park, lucky things!) I said goodbye to them in Kensington Gardens as they went on their way to be met at Kensington Palace by one of the HRP team.

Law and Disorder

It’s been an awful week for Hyde Park with plenty of the latter and not enough of the former. As you have probably realised by now, we try to use our blogs to interest, inform and delight our readers with all the things to enjoy in both Parks.

(1) Cannabis 420 Many of you will know about this unauthorised gathering which is a growing problem every year. Don’t believe the Daily Telegraph when they reported a “few hundred people gathered to smoke cannabis”.

It is awful for all the staff who look after Hyde Park, for ordinary members of the public who want to enjoy their time there and for the police trying to manage it.

Sometimes called World Cannabis Day, the event (with no known organisers) started on American college campuses and has always taken place on the 20th April (420 American date style) with lighting up scheduled for 4.20pm. This has grown every year and crowds gather on the Parade Ground in the morning, building up to thousands (some estimates of ten to fifteen) during the day with a hard core staying into the evening and joined then by gangs. There were plenty of police on duty.

When things turned nasty in the evening the police applied for a Section 35 Dispersal Order. This is used when there are stabbings or threats of stabbings and gives the police more powers to stop and search.

The rubbish left behind was shocking and despite the toilets remaining open, every corner, bush or private garden was used. The smell was awful and with no rain forecast the problem won’t go away on its own. Clearing the filth usually starts in the gathering gloom when it’s safe to do so, and then again at 5am by teams from Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and St James’s Park. Normally the next day, 21st April, a major gun salute takes place (cancelled this year) in honour of the Queen’s birthday. This year, with a 5am start it was cleaned up by 11am (which would normally be too late for the gun salute.

What’s to do? It has been growing larger every year. Is this an annual experience our staff are going to have to put up with?

(2) Anti-lockdown demonstration On Saturday 24th April a crowd of about 1,500 gathered for an anti-lockdown demonstration. Although no distancing or face masks were worn and thousands of stickers were plastered everywhere, it was mostly peaceful and set off through the West End.

Later on, some of the marchers returned to the Park and as word had got out they were joined by an element who had heard about it and were looking for a fight with the police. They were about 500 in number by this time. It became very dangerous logistically for the police, some of whom got cut off from their colleagues, and they were defending themselves with batons only, no protective gear and no serious head gear either. Several police were injured.

On Saturday evening the Hyde Park bandstand and notice board were graffitied. Gangs have been gathering here, using the bandstand for drunken parties and it has become a crime hot spot.

Protecting our Views

Most members, if living in London, will have heard about Protected Views. These were built in, as a legal requirement of urban planning, to limit the height of new buildings within or adjacent to the sight line between two buildings to preserve the ability to see a landmark.

An example of where this has failed spectacularly is of St Paul’s Cathedral from Richmond Park. Go to King Henry’s Mound there (near Pembroke Lodge) and use the telescope to look towards the cathedral. The outline of the dome was obscured by a development about four miles BEHIND the landmark in Stratford. It was too late to do anything about it but the Friends of Richmond Park fought valiantly and I believe got the building’s cladding changed to something non-reflective.

Our Protected View

There are thirteen protected vistas (or views) in London and our very own one is, I think, the shortest. Go to the centre of the Serpentine Bridge. Look east and lean on the lamppost in the middle. You may have to jostle other viewers aside. You will see the Palace of Westminster. The sight of all the tall cranes may make you nervous, and I worry that the buildings they are creating, admittedly smaller than the cranes are, may distract.


Good news for lunchers

The Lido Cafe now has tables outside. As the area is very popular and could be a pinch point for crowds, the cafe has agreed to put fewer tables outside at water level, instead there will be seating (temporarily) for over 100 lunchers upstairs in the garden on the terrace, looking out over the lake to the trees opposite. No crowds passing in front of you. This is only until the Lido reopens for swimming sometime in June and after some work has been done on the changing rooms. There will be staff to monitor the numbers on the stairs and food will be brought up there (I believe).

Sue Price