Step off the busy streets into this botanical oasis of colour, tranquility and countless plants from all over the world, something you need to find for yourself in Oxford. There is so much to see, study and wonder at for everyone, from small children to professional gardeners.
Walking through the glasshouses, strolling along the River Cherwell while watching punters, or meandering through the gardens, is going to make your visit all the more worthwhile.
Founded as a ‘Physic Garden’ by Henry Danvers, 1st Earl of Danby, in 1621 with a mission “to promote the furtherance of learning and to glorify nature” and grow plants for medicinal research. In the almost 400 years since then, the Botanic Garden contains over 8,000 different plant species on 1.8 hectares (4½ acres).
Founder Henry Danvers contributed £5,000 (equivalent to £744,000 in 2005) to set up a the garden (apparently, much of that sum was spent on the walls which enclosed the original garden, and little was left for plants!). He chose a site on the banks of the River Cherwell at the northeast corner of Christ Church Meadow, belonging to Magdalen College. Part of the land had been the former medieval Jewish cemetery used until the Jews were expelled from Oxford (and the rest of England) in 1290. 40,000 cartloads of “mucke and dunge” were needed to raise the land above the River Cherwell flood-plain.
University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest Botanic Garden in Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world.
Upon your visit you’ll be greeted by The Danby Gateway, designed by Nicholas Stone, which incorporates statues of Charles I and Charles II in classical pose which is a Grade I listed structure.
The Garden is separated into three sections: the Walled Garden, surrounded by the original seventeenth-century stonework and home to the Garden’s oldest tree; an English yew (Taxus baccata); the Glasshouses, where you can see over 1200 different species of plants needing protection from the extremes of British weather, and the Lower Garden the area between the Walled Garden and the River Cherwell.
The gardens have been planted to offer interest throughout the seasons while also contain collections that thrive in the microclimate, which are grouped by geographical origin. Here you can admire the South American and the South African collections, and plants from Japan and New Zealand. Such areas hold high numbers of Endemic plant species, yet face substantial threat to their natural vegetation.
Special scientific collections include the Geographic Collections, the Medicinal Collection and the Herbaceous Border.
University of Oxford Botanic Garden is one of the most diverse yet compact collections of plants in the world which includes representatives from over 90% of the higher plant families.
This quiet wonderland has provided inspiration for various writers, such as Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman, and Tolkien; Tolkien would sit under his favourite tree Pinus nigra from Austria.
Just outside, you can hire a punt on the river or enjoy lunch at Magdalen College, located on the opposite site, where you can take a break at the college’s cafe or carry on with sightseeing in the rather magnificent building.
November – February: 9am until 4pm (last admission 3.15pm).
March – April: 9am until 5pm (last admission 4.15pm).
May – August: 9am until 6pm (last admission 5.15pm).
September – October: 9am until 5pm (last admission 4.15pm).
Tickets and Prices:
It’s £5 for an adult day ticket, £3.50 for concessions and £18.50/£15 for a year pass.
Admission is free for Oxford & Brookes students, accompanied children in full-time education and for disabled visitors and carers.
No dogs allowed except guide dogs.
There are no refreshment facilities available on site but visitors are welcome to bring a picnic with them.
The Botanic Garden (including the glasshouses) is fully wheelchair accessible. There is also a wheelchair available to borrow.