1. A wonderful warmup for the rest of the garden is the bearded iris bed. If caught when the bed is in full bloom, it's hard not to be impressed by the multitudes of irises. There are even some species of iris that can only be found at Oxford, and are not grown anywhere else in the world.
2. The 1648 collection is an almost stereotypically English garden. It's full of tulips, hazel, and other species that grow well in the English climate. This particular collection is based around a sampling of the 1648 catalogue of the botanical gardens' collections.
3. A stroll through the water garden should be on the list of any visitors to the botanical gardens. The newly added river walk expanded this garden in 2001. There's also a pond which is home to many types of English fowl, such as the moorhen and the nesting coot. This garden is also known for its dragonflies.
4. The Danby gateway is one of the three entrances to the gardens that were built in 1633. The early Baroque style of the gateway marks the first time that classical architecture was used at Oxford. It was built by the famous English architect, Nicholas Stone. While visitors today probably won't care that Charles I and Charles II are the men in classical poses on the archway, the Danby gateway is still a remarkable piece of architectural history and beauty.
5. Restricted by the gateway's size, the rock garden's stones all had to be hand-delivered on carts due to the narrowness of the gateway and the width of a modern automobile. The plants found in this garden tend to come from high altitudes. The east side of the rock garden contains plants from Europe, while the west side contains plants from all over the world.
6. Those familiar with Lewis Carroll's work might recognize the tropical lily house. Featured in the original artwork by Sir John Tenniel, visitors will appreciate the literary connection to Alice In Wonderland as well as the water lilies that are grown in the tanks. There are also a few tropical economic plants such as sugar cane and bananas the grow alongside the lilies.
7. A surprisingly diverse array of cultivars can be found around the borders of the walled gardens. The microclimates formed by the various bends in the wall and the length of direct sunlight make for some small gardens that are very different from everything else at the Oxford Botanical Gardens. For instance, a bamboo garden is found along the southeast wall border. A South African bed can be found at the northeast. Mediterranean plants manage to find an English home in the microclimate provided by the north wall.
8. Not as out-and-out gorgeous as many other beds, the economic beds contain the plants that are and previously were used at Oxford for purposes other than food. A couple of the choices seem downright bizarre today, such as the choice of stinging nettle to make a type of cloth that was considered to be superior to linen.
9. Even the kids will love the insectivorous house. This greenhouse holds a collection of carnivorous plants from around the world, including the famous Venus flytrap. Every single plant here has some form of trapping and digesting unwary insects.
10. If you came to the Oxford Botanical Gardens, the core exhibit should be at the top of the list of things to see. The family beds comprise the majority of the walled garden. Each of these beds is an entire collection of plants from one related family. These beds are constantly changed as DNA evidence allows for a more accurate picture of how plant life evolved. Most of the family beds are quite pretty as well, and the variety ensures that there's something blooming through most of the spring, summer, and autumn.
The Oxford Botanical Gardens contain more than just these highlights, so be sure to devote at least a whole day to see everything. Half of a day should suffice for visitors that just want to hit the high spots and are willing to keep moving. Amateur gardeners, plant aficionados, and professional horticulturalists will all find a trip to the botanical gardens worthwhile. When planning a visit, be sure to check in advance to see what's in bloom.
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Article Added on Friday, April 16, 2010
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