As an International Garden Photographer, one of my favorite English gardens is the Oxford Botanic Gardens, right in the heart of city centre, across the street from Magdalen College. It is on the corner of Rose Lane and High Street, a spot bustling with students, locals, tourists, and traffic. There is punting on the River Cherwell just next to the gardens which is a big tourist draw. As soon as I step inside the gardens, however, the hustle and bustle fades away. I feel like I have crossed the threshold into another world. This little garden is not as extensive or dramatic as Kew Gardens in London, but as a country mouse who loves beautiful quiet corners, I consider this garden to be idyllic. I do not get overwhelmed and I do not feel like one of thousands of people filing in an out. This oasis of a garden feels intimate, peaceful, and enchanting.
The Walled Garden is where I spend most of my time- every time. It is surrounded by the original seventeenth-century stonework. Handsomely situated within these walls is the Oxford Botanic Garden’s oldest tree, an English yew.
The Danby Gateway is the entrance I always walk through into the gardens. It is a highly ornate stone arch designed between 1632 and 1633 and is one of the earliest structures to have used early Baroque style. If I was not always so intent on getting INTO the garden I could easily spend more time admiring the wonderful craftsmanship.
This last visit I found myself enamored by the whimsical anemone, sea holly covered in bees, and multi-colored artichokes. I just could not get enough of them. The pink Anemone Robitussima in front of the dark grey stone walls captivated me for what felt like hours.
The anemone that was added to my Mystics Collection last winter is named for St. Teresa of Avila and I do believe she is sublime.This image is equally gorgeous printed on canvas, watercolor paper, and shimmery metallic paper.
What caught my fascination as well this last visit was learning that the Rose Garden in front of the Oxford Botanic Gardens is built upon an 800-year old medieval Jewish Burial Site. It is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Britain and belonged to the Jews until 1290 when they were expelled from Oxford, and the rest of England. Historian Pam Manix found the cemetery’s location after searching the archives of Magdalen College. A memorial stone was unveiled by the Presidents of Magdalen Collage and the Oxford Jewish Community in July 2012. In November 2016 the stone was relocated to a more prominent spot, placed between the York stone steps in the Rose Garden.
I was very moved to learn that these roses were growing on such sacred ground. Here is the inscription on the stone memorial:
“Beneath this garden lies a medieval cemetery. Around 1190 the Jews of Oxford purchased a water meadow outside the city walls to establish a burial ground. In 1231 that land, now occupied by Magdalen College, was appropriated by the Hospital of St. John, and a small section of wasteland, where this memorial lies, was given to the Jews for a new cemetery. An ancient footpath linked this cemetery with the medieval Jewish quarter along Great Jewry Street, now St. Aldates. For over 800 years this path has been called ‘Deadman’s Walk’, a name that bears silent witness to a community to contributed to the growth of this City and early University throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1290 all Jews were expelled from England by King Edward I. They were not permitted to return for over 350 years. May their memory be blessed.”
This particular visit I was with my mother. I love this image I created of her in the Rose Maze Garden.
And here is one she created of me!
While I spend nearly the entire time with the lush perennials in the Walled Garden, there are several glasshouses full of exotic and tropical plants, an informal lower garden, as well as the arboretum with 130 acres with “the best collection of trees in Oxfordshire” and some of the oldest redwoods in the UK! The Oxford Botanic Garden was founded in 1621 as physic garden, growing plants for medicinal research, and now has over 8,000 types of plants!
Visitors are very welcome to bring a picnic with them and there are many benches to use. There is a pop-up café during the summer months that sells hot and cold drinks and snacks by the riverside. Check the Oxford Botanic Garden website for their latest events, which include family-friendly picnics, fairs and education courses. The garden is open every day of the year with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day.
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