A Visit To the Oxford Botanic Garden

High on my list of gardens to visit while staying in Oxfordshire was one close to my friend’s flat – the Oxford Botanic Garden. Located directly across from a splendid garden at Magdalen College (more about that soon), the OBG is a Walled Garden that contains the national collection of euphorbias,

Oxford Botanic Garden, euphorbia

Aren't these euphorbias in the OBG splendid?

various plant-specific beds such as the one with ornamental grasses,

Oxford Botanic Garden, ornamental grasses

A view of part of the ornamental grasses bed at the Oxford Botanic Garden with Karl Foerster and Miscanthus grasses, among others.

and the “Tolkien tree.” This Austrian pine (Pinus nigra sp. nigra), which must be at least 60′ high and has grown from a seed planted in 1790, was described by one of the OBG gardening staff to us as the one that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein (a fellow at both Merton and Exeter Colleges during his many years at Oxford University), to create the Ents, massive anthropomorphic tree characters in The Lord of the Rings.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Pinus nigra var. nigra, Tolkien tree

The "Tolkien Tree" inside the walled garden at the Oxford Botanic Garden.

All these wonders (and many more, including poppies in bloom in August, lucky Brits!) can be seen inside the walled portion of the OBG. Pass through the door in the wall beyond the Tolkien tree, however, and you encounter another feast for the eyes – the Autumn Borders, designed by the husband and wife design team of Nori and Sandra Pope. I’ll let the photos tell the richness of this scene.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope

A section of the Autumn Border that sits underneath the Tolkien Tree on the other side of the wall.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope

Ditto.

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope

One section of the Autumn Borders had an amazing variety of dark-leaved dahlias in full bloom. Above, the orange and yellow dahlia is 'Moonfire.'

Oxford Botanic Garden, Autumn Border, Sandra Pope, Nori Pope, Dahlias

Another variety of orange dark-leaved dahlias in the Autumn Border.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Popes and their work with color in the garden, I can recommend their book Color by Design: Planting the Contemporary Garden,  with photography by Clive Nichols, whose work I greatly admire. And if you are ever fortunate enough to visit Oxford, be sure to leave time to visit the Oxford Botanic Garden.

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5 Comments on “A Visit To the Oxford Botanic Garden”

  1. Susan Hirsch Says:

    lovely photos – what month was this, Melissa?

  2. Carolyn Mullet Says:

    Meticulous grooming. Oh, that we all had time (or staff) to maintain so well. Lovely, really!

    • Melissa Says:

      Yes, isn’t it? One interesting difference I noticed, however, is that for the most part, the Brits don’t mulch their planting beds – you see soil underneath the plants, not mulch. But you’re right that I didn’t see any gardens that weren’t extremely well-kept.

  3. John Says:

    Melissa,

    I remember that wall, but the garden is even better than I what I saw years ago …

    We’ve started to move away from mulching too. I noticed the lack of mulch at several of the gardens we toured this year and I’ve also been paying more attention to the seedlings you get without mulching (like snowdrops and hellebores).


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