Oxford Botanic Garden
off High Street
Oxford OX1 4AZ
In the centre of Oxford is, opposite Magdalen College, a gem of a 17th century walled garden. The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world.
It was established in 1621 as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research. Ironically, so much money was spent on building the walls that there was little left for purchasing plants! Today it contains over 8,000 different plant species and has one of the most diverse yet compact collections of plants anywhere.
Covering 4½ acres (1.8 hectares) the Gardens comprise three sections:
- Walled Garden;
- Glasshouses; and
- Outside Garden: the area between the Walled Garden and the River Cherwell.
Entry is from Rose Lane, off the High Street, through a magnificent ornamented stone archway, The Danby Gateway. Henry Danvers, the 1st Earl of Danby was the benefactor who established the physic garden for "the glorification of the works of God and for the furtherance of learning".
The rectangular plant beds are interspersed with ornamental fountains and ponds, ancient trees and seats. This is a scientific garden with the plants meticulously catalogued and arranged in botanical families. There are beds of plants used for medicine, food, shelter and clothing.
The borders along the foot of the wall contain collections that thrive in the microclimate created by the Wall. There are plants from all corners of the globe.
The lovely Rose Garden was established to commemorate the discovery of the first antibiotic.
Peace and quiet awaits visitors to this secluded garden. Over the centuries many famous academics have enjoyed the lovely vistas with Magdalen Tower peeping over the old walls, the tinkling fountain and the massed perfumed plants.
It has inspired many famous Oxford authors such as J R Tolkien, its delights being mentioned by Evelyn Waugh in Brideshead Revisitedand Professor Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll who set several of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in the Garden.
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A group of glasshouses provide environments for growing tropical, arid and alpine zone plants. They are full of weird and wonderful exotic things of great interest to children.
In the Palm House they can see tropical fruits and vegetables growing, normally seen only in a picked state in the supermarket.
The Conservatory is an aluminium replica of the original 1893 wooden house. Seasonal flowering plants are exhibited and change regularly.
The Alpine House also changes its displays regularly so there is always something in flower.
The Fernery houses varieties of ferns from all over the world.
The oldest glasshouse is the Tropical Lily House - the water tank was built in 1851. Tropical water lilies grow in boxes in the tank, and fish can be glimpsed swimming beneath the lily pads. Economic plants including bananas, sugar cane, rice and papyrus reed grow around the lily pond.
The Orchid House shows the enormous diversity in growth habit of this family of plants together with the largest family of flowering plants in the world, Bromeliads. It may come as a surprise to discover that pineapples are bromeliads.
There is plenty to interest all visitors, including children and on a winter’s or inclement summer’s day the tropical warmth is very welcome.
The Outside Garden
In 1947 the land outside the original walled garden was annexed. Things to enjoy here are the big herbaceous borders, a newly restored bog garden, a rock garden, and a water garden beside the tranquil River Cherwell.
The River Walk leads to the Water Garden with views of the Cherwell and the cricket pitch on the way. The pond and borders is a favourite spot for nesting coots, moorhens, newts and dragonflies. The plants flower from Marsh to August and then the autumn borders come into their own.
A very popular recent addition is the Vegetable Beds. The beds operate on a four year rotation and use organic growing practices. Plants are grown directly from seed wherever possible and troublesome pests are controlled by the release of natural insect predators. The purpose of the beds is to demonstrate to home gardeners that sustainable production is easy to achieve.
The Botanic Garden in Oxford is quite different from any others this writer has visited and a worthwhile experience.
Plan Your Visit
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All year except Christmas Day and Good Friday.
09:00 – 18:00; winter closure 16:30.
For more information visit Web: Oxford Botanic Garden Admission times
Accompanied children, who are in full time education, are admitted free. For all admission costs, please go to Web: Oxford Botanic Garden Admission Costs
The botanic garden does not have a car park but disabled badge holders may park on the double yellow lines in Rose Lane. A disabled toilet is located at the rear of the Conservatory.
No Refreshment facilities or parking.
Toilets behind the Conservatory; Children’s quizzes and trails available; Garden Shop.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1865 286 690
There is no parking and it is recommended that visitors use the ‘Park & Ride’ facilities on the outskirts of the town. For map and further details go to Web: Oxford Botanic Garden 'Travel Information'
Google Map - Oxford Botanic Garden