The Central Royal Parks – Jim Buttress, March 2012

This month’s meeting was fascinating and enjoyable from start to finish, as we had a visit from Jim Buttress who was the superintendent of the Royal Parks for 25 years. He also had responsibility for ensuring all the flags and decorations for royal occasions were in place and the floral displays were colour coordinated. The Royal Parks are Green Park, Kensington Place Park (soon to be reopened), St James’s Park, and Hyde Park. Others were also included such as Buckingham Palace and Clarence House.

It was interesting to hear that there is a natural water supply to all of these areas and so drought is not a problem. Watering is switched on at night and early morning to keep the displays in pristine condition. We are so fortunate to have all these open spaces in London which are free to us to use.

Jim gave us some hints and statistics. Seven million spring flowers are grown and nine million summer bedding plants in their huge glasshouse area, but extras must be ready to fill gaps when needed. As he explained, visitors want to see the best displays. One hint he used was that because of the problem with Busy Lizzies dying, we should try begonia semperflorens this year as they are reliable and can be used in the same way. Geraniums are fed with a growth retardant so that they can be bedded out in flower and all at the same height. He said that formal beds benefit from spot plants to give height. An amusing aside was that cannabis was formally used for this purpose! Daffodils are not wasted after their season and are then replanted into mixed shrub borders but are also fed to help the bulb re-grow. Allotments are also proving to be very popular in certain areas.

As well as this very important job in London, Jim, who was trained at Wisley as an apprentice, is an Associate of Honour of the RHS and was awarded the Victorian Medal of Honour in 2006 amongst other awards. He is still very involved with many aspects of horticulture.

I would like to thank our committee for all their hard work in producing such an interesting programme each month.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 17th April when our speaker will be talking about Climbers and Creepers. Everyone will be most welcome.

Mary Johnston, March 2012

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