The University of Oxford Botanic Garden, like all others, is a great source of inspiration and information for Gardeners. And it’s a great day out.
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden
This is Britain’s oldest botanic garden having been founded in 1621 as a physic garden. The modern garden represents 8,000+ plant species across its 4½ acres making it one of the most diverse yet compact collections in the world. Visit the Oxford Botanic Garden and you can encounter 90% of the higher plant families.
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden in Literature
Few gardens, and certainly none so compact, can have inspired more famous authors, especially of classic children’s fiction. Lewis Carroll visited with Alice Liddel and her sisters and later reflected many of its different walks and gardens in Alice’s subsequent adventures.
Then it was the turn of JRR Tolkien, another frequent visitor. Tolkein was particularly impressed by an exceptionally large Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra) that can still be seen today. In The Lord of the Rings, that tree led to the creation of some Middle Earth’s largest inhabitants – the talking, walking tree people called the Ents.
In the modern era, the gardens have played their part in another trilogy – Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. You two can sit on the same bench as Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry – though unlike them, you probably won’t find yourself in a parallel universe.
Finally, Evelyn Waugh had Sebastian Flyte take Charles Ryder to the garden in Brideshead Revisited.
The 1648 Collection
One of the gardens is called The 1648 Collection, named after a catalogue made in that year of all 1,400 plants then present. Box (Buxus sempervirens) was then used as hedging and the plant is still much in evidence. As is a giant Yew (Taxus baccata), planted in 1645.
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden Today
Then as now, there is a mixture of native and foreign plants growing in a variety of habitats including woodland, bog, a traditional walled garden and orchard. There’re beds and borders aplenty and even vegetable plots.