Botanic Gardens what to do in oxford

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Botanic Gardens

The Hidden Gem of Oxford

Dive into the vibrant, living mosaic of the Oxford Botanic Gardens. This lesser-known yet captivating Oxford attraction tops the list of things to do in Oxford. The Oxford Botanic Garden offers a rich history, visual grandeur, and an educational exploration into the world of Oxford’s one of the great oxford attractions for all things garden related. situated just on the outskirts of oxford city centre. 

Oxford botanic gardens to see in oxford

History and Evolution

Established in 1621, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest of its kind in the United Kingdom. Originally set up as a Physic Garden for medicinal research, the Botanic Garden Oxford has seen a remarkable transformation over the past four centuries. Fun thing to do in oxford join a city guided tour

The First Steps

The Botanic Gardens were initiated by Sir Henry Danvers, the first Earl of Danby. His generous contribution of £5,000 sparked this ambitious project. The location chosen for the University of Oxford Botanic Garden was on the banks of the River Cherwell, a scenic spot enhancing the visual charm.

Sir henry botanic gardens donation portrait

The Danby Gate

The danby gate oxford university botanic gardens

Built in 1632, the Danby Gate adorns the entrance of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. This architectural marvel is one of the earliest structures in Oxford that incorporates classical and early Baroque styles. Today, it stands as a symbol of the Botanic Garden’s rich legacy.

The Bobart Era

Jacob Bobart the elder botanic gardens oxford

In 1642, Jacob Bobart the Elder was appointed as the first Superintendent of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. Under his guidance, the garden thrived. His son, Bobart the Younger, assumed control in 1679, further enhancing the garden’s plant collections.

Collections and Exhibits

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden exhibits a wide range of plant species, making it a treasure chest for botany lovers. It shelters some of the world’s rarest species, offering a journey of discovery and learning.

The Walled Garden

walled garden botanic gardens oxford

The Walled Garden, part of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, houses the oldest tree in the collection, an English yew, planted in 1645. The garden also features Botanical Family beds, where plants are grouped by their botanical family according to the classification system devised by nineteenth-century botanists, Bentham, and Hooker.

The Glasshouses

Oxford botanic gardens greenhouse

The Glasshouses at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden provide a controlled environment for the cultivation of plants that require protection from the extremes of British weather. They exhibit a variety of exotic and rare plants, including palms, ferns, and tropical water lilies

The Lower Garden

OXford garden by the river cherwell

The Lower Garden, a serene area nestled between the Walled Garden and the River Cherwell at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, offers a peaceful retreat and a perfect spot for contemplation amidst nature.

Educational and Research Endeavours

Botanic gardens oxford things to do

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is not just about visual appeal. It plays a crucial role in promoting education, research, and conservation efforts in the field of botany.

The Role of Botanic Gardens

The mission of the University of Oxford’s Botanic Gardens is to utilise their living collections to showcase to the widest possible audience how our future depends on plants. This is accomplished through various activities, exhibitions, and workshops designed to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of the importance of plants.

Conservation Efforts

The University of Oxford’s Botanic Gardens are at the forefront of plant conservation efforts. They house many endangered species and are actively involved in propagation programs aimed at preventing extinction. The Gardens also work towards creating awareness about ‘Plant Blindness’, a growing problem where many people scarcely notice plants, despite their critical role in our existence.

Transformation Plans

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is undergoing an exciting transformation phase. New infrastructure is being developed to create a hub from which to communicate the importance of plants at all levels, to everyone from schoolchildren to the public.

The Rainforest in Oxford

Rainforest n oxford to be built

One of the most anticipated features of this transformation at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the new glasshouses that will house a Rainforest in Oxford. This immersive experience will take visitors on a journey into a tropical ecosystem, right in the city centre.

The Visitor and Learning Centre

Plans are also underway to build a Visitor and Learning Centre at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden’s Arboretum. Guided tours oxford do not visit this location however we can give you great information on it. This initiative aims to enhance the visitor experience and provide a platform for educational activities.

The Harcourt Arboretum

The Harcourt Arboretum, an integral part of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden, is located six miles south of Oxford and became associated with the Botanic Garden in 1963. Thanks to the Oxford Arboretum’s different soil conditions, the plant collection was broadened to include acid-loving shrubs and trees.

Literature and the Botanic Gardens

The rich history and enchanting beauty of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden have not only captured the fascination of botanists but also inspired literary works. The gardens were a source of inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s stories in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. and is one of the great things to do oxford

His Dark Materials

oxford gardens dark materails

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden also features in Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels, His Dark Materials. A bench in the back of the garden is one of the locations that stand parallel in the different worlds that the two protagonists, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, inhabit.

Exploring the Botanic Gardens

Visiting the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is a must-do when pondering what to do in Oxford. It promises an immersive experience, blending education, conservation, and visual delight. From the historic Danby Gate to the spectacular glasshouses, every corner of the garden offers a unique experience. Don’t forget to secure your Oxford Botanic Garden tickets before your visit.

Tips for Visitors

While the University of Oxford Botanic Garden is open all year round, the best time to visit would be during the summer months when most of the plants are in full bloom. Remember to bring a camera to capture the breathtaking sights, and allow at least a couple of hours to fully explore the gardens.


The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is a testament to the enduring allure of nature and the importance of conservation. They showcase the intricate beauty of the plant kingdom and underscore our dependence on it. So, if you’re wondering what to do in Oxford, make sure a visit to the Botanic Gardens is on your list. Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of the oldest botanic garden in the UK, and immerse yourself in a vibrant world of flora, history, and learning. Keep an eye out for the Oxford Botanic Garden events for an even more enriching experience.


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