Ever since discovering the Botanic Garden as an undergraduate I have always tried to visit other botanic gardens in Britain and abroad and to compare them with Oxford. Few have in any way rivaled Oxford for its combination of historic, horticultural or design interest in an outstanding architectural and landscape setting. In January I was fortunate to visit both Kew and Capetown’s astonishing Kirstenbosch. Both remarkable, but not to my eyes, quite as perfect as the 4 ½ acres of our Garden. Similarly the Harcourt Arboretum is becoming an outstanding combination of planting and historic and contemporary design.
The botanic garden has also historically been the home of remarkable herbaria and botanical art and a distinguished school of botany. While these have become parts of the Department of Plant Sciences in South Parks Road the Garden has also moved on. It has (alongside the university museums) new “objectives” which have recently been set out in the inevitably bureaucratic language of the University’s draft Corporate Plan. These are “research, teaching and collection based scholarship within the University, communication and interaction between the University and the public, an educational resource for schools and other educational institutions, a catalyst for life-long learning and cultural recreation in the immediate region and an active contributor to the region’s cultural and economic development”.
I think, when translated, this means what Timothy Walker, Louise Allen and their colleagues have been pioneering in the Garden for a good many years. The Friends share a love of Gardens but we also passionately believe in the wider importance of a University garden in research and in teaching. Our support has not only enabled the Botanic Garden and the Arboretum to become more beautiful and horticulturaly interesting but also increasingly more conspicuous in local life. For example, our Education Trust Fund, established after our most major appeal, contributes around £15,000 each year for a post to deliver the outstanding educational programmes for local children.
The Palmers Leys appeal (now approaching our target) and our continuing donation of subscription income for other projects are already resulting in very obvious new developments. We can look forward to helping with further exciting stages of the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum strategies. This newsletter will continue to share plans with Friends and other supporters.
Thank you for your support which is vital for the Botanic Garden. Please persuade your friends to support us and the Garden. Do also let us know if you or anyone you know can help us in organizing events or other tasks.
Do please contact us if you are able to help with the Plant Sale or with our occasional membership and information stand. See thye further information below.