Louise Smith

Oxford Botanical Gardens & Arboretum

Louise Smith

Oxford Botanical Gardens is tucked away in the heart of the city, containing four centuries of wonder and discovery. There's something really magical about knowing you are in the UK’s oldest Botanical Garden and that magic only grows as you meander through the gardens.

As you enter, it's immediately impressive - bursts of colour and textures intertwine through lush borders and substantial trees, guiding you into the Walled Garden; A rich open space dedicated to showcasing the plants in their correct classification. I loved how humble and purposeful this area was. Nothing has been planted just for the sake of it, but instead to create a place where the public is enticed to learn about nature. 

With not enough time to experience everything the gardens had to offer, I chose to prioritise the Glass Houses which run parallel to the romantic canal. 

First stop, The Cloud Forest. 

Deep green foliage curves in every single direction, whilst the trailing, climbing and rooted plants make you feel as if you're being swallowed up by a jungle floor. There is a beautiful collection of luscious ferns that build bridges with their leaves from one side of the glass house to the other, giving you a real sense of a rainforest setting. 

If an immersive jungle experience is what you are after than I would recommend spending time in The Palm House. You immediately witness the fierce competitive nature between plants as they all try to win the race to touch the sun. It was also lovely to see how much produce there was amongst the greenery. Crop plants such as ginger, pineapple, cocoa & coffee were all thriving, along with cinnamon - something I'd never seen growing before! 

My quick visit was almost coming to end, so I rushed to the Lily House. At the centre of the tropical borders, there's a pond filled with giant Amazonian lily pads that left me speechless. Nestled in between the lily pads are blooming white sacred flowers, anchored by a long stalk buried in the ponds floor. An overwhelming sense of calm runs through this glasshouse. When walking around the pond you also see the plant that feeds the earth more than any other - the ancient Rice Grain. Submerged in the water it looks like any other member of the grass family and blends in seamlessly with the orchids and banana plants that line the edge of the house.

Combining intense beauty with science & history, Oxford Botanical Gardens is such an incredible place to visit. With such a variety of life inside its walls, there is something for everyone - even if you just want to sit & relax. As the seasons change, I imagine you could rediscover this slice of paradise over and over again. 

I will definitely be going back.