Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Beautiful University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

Oxford, the beautiful home of the oldest university in the English speaking world is also home to the oldest botanic garden in Britain. Founded as the Physic Garden in 1621 for the study of medicinal plants, today it still to supports the university’s teaching programmes and research scientists. The most compact yet diverse collection of plants in the world, it is also a part of many plant conservation projects.

My husband and I visited the Oxford Botanic Gardens yesterday with our friends and had a wonderful day. It’s a very welcoming place and benches everywhere invite you to sit down and just drink in your surroundings. We saw lots of people yesterday just eating their sandwiches and reading their books in the sunshine.

There are three glasshouses, a rose garden, a gorgeous walled garden, a water garden and a rock garden, all set amongst some beautiful architecture. The walled garden was so beautiful - I have never seen borders like the ones I saw there. A riot of colour, they stretched on for ages, and were feeding lots of lovely bees and butterflies.

The glasshouses, which appeared small from the outside, were anything but small on the inside, containing thousands of plants. They were also incredibly biologically diverse.

Check out these lily pads - big enough for a whole frog convention!

As you walk through the hallways of the glasshouses, you are surrounded by plants. It’s impossible not to touch them and you feel quite surrounded - a bit like you were actually in the jungle.

Outside, they also still have dozens of medicinal gardens, all divided into sections according to the medical conditions the plants in them are used to treat.

It is fascinating seeing where so many of our modern lifesaving drugs began. And although the lawns may be beautifully manicured, you are positively encouraged to walk all the way round all the beds. Every single plant in these gardens is comprehensively labelled.

The architecture is gorgeous too, and really historic. The lead drain on the left of the archway in the photo below is dated 1780.

The Oxford University Botanic Gardens are a wonderful place to spend a few hours, and we are definitely planning a return visit.

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