Oxford Botanic Garden – Part 2: The Walled Garden and Lower Garden

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Part 1 of this post, with pictures from the Glasshouses, is here.

Once I have my fill of exotic climates and strange plants in the glasshouses, I like to wander around the various botanical family beds. I find that there is always something of interest blooming, no matter the time of year. This is where ‘Tolkien’s tree’, that great and beloved black pine stood for 200 years. The Walled Garden also has the 17th century section which hosts the same varieties that were found in the Botanic Garden when it first was founded.

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Dotted around the garden are many wooden benches, perfect for a little rest. I can’t think of many more idyllic spots to sit and read a good book.

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The Herbaceous Border (top picture) is pretty much the ultimate cottage garden inspiration. Don’t you just love how rambling and romantic it is?  On my visit last week, the Japanese anemones really stood out to me as they basked in the sunshine.

I try to look up every now and then because the garden offers some classic Oxford views. Magdalen Tower can be seen from among the Botanical Family Beds, while the Merton College Chapel tower makes the perfect backdrop for the Lower Garden. I think that colourful plants and beautiful medieval buildings make a perfect combination!

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The Walled and Lower gardens offer so much to delight, fascinate and inspire. I made many mental notes for my future/dream garden, just like every other time I’ve visited the Botanic Garden. It was also a great treat to spend some time reading in this peaceful place.

Part 3, with pictures of the Merton Borders (possibly my favourite part of the garden), will be coming next week. I hope you are enjoying this series!

Oxford Botanic Garden – Part 1: The glasshouses

Soft light at the Palm house Oxford Botanic Garden.

The Oxford Botanic Garden is a very special place in the heart of the city. At almost 400 years old, the garden is a lovely, peaceful spot, and it’s filled with beauty and wonder. I love going to the gardens, for a quick lunchtime stroll or for a longer, more leisurely visit. Last week, I planned a “me-day” and filled it with only good things. So I took a book (Making it Up as I Go Along by Marian Keyes) and my camera (along with my new Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens) and spent a blissful few hours there.

I tend to visit the glasshouses first. (On a winter’s day, it’s nice to warm up a little bit and feel the blood return to my fingers and toes.) They are such a brilliant portal to other lands. I start at the Conservatory which reminds me of my grandma’s garden, I head to the tropics in the Palm House, and finally I visit the desert in the Arid House. I can travel the world in the space of a few minutes!

The Conservatory at the Oxford Botanic Garden.
The Conservatory at the Oxford Botanic Garden.


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


Plump Seville oranges at the Oxford Botanic Garden.

There were so many highlights on this visit… Looking up and seeing plump Seville oranges hanging above my head. Oh I could almost taste the delicious, sticky marmalade they would make! Checking for fairies among the giant lily pads in the Lily House because you just never know. Getting up close and personal with the spiky residents of the Arid House.

Checking for fairies among the lily pads at the Oxford Botanic Garden.
Spiky residents of the Arid House at the Oxford Botanic Garden.

Come back on Friday for Part 2 of my visit to the Oxford Botanic Garden, with lots of pictures from the flower beds.

Sidenote: What do you think of these pictures? This was my first proper outing with my new lens and it was quite challenging. I found it forced me to change the way I look at the world and how I take pictures. It was frustrating and fun!

Bookshop dates

I truly believe in finding and appreciating the small things that make every day just that little bit more beautiful or happier. This can be the smell of something delicious baking in the oven, a few peaceful moments to enjoy a cup of tea in the morning, or spending some time in a bookshop packed full with more books than I could ever read. My boyfriend and I often arrange to meet in town after work, for a bookshop date. Nothing works better to cheer up an ordinary day and add a bit of magic to everyday routine.

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We are very lucky to have many delightful bookshops in Oxford, but Blackwell’s is my favourite for our bookshop dates. It first opened in 1879 and it hosts more than 125,000 books spread over four floors. Doesn’t that sound dreamy? There is really something for everyone here. I usually navigate to the modern fiction section (I love to read the little cards with staff recommendations to discover new gems), while my boyfriend tries to find a worthy follow-up to Edmund Crispin’s novels in the crime section (does anyone have any suggestions?), which is starting to seem like an impossible task. We find each other again at the poetry corner or, unsurprisingly for anyone who knows us, by the P.G. Wodehouse shelves.

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Then, we head downstairs to the Norrington room which boasts 3 miles of books! Because we are nerds, we tend to spend quite a bit of time in the maths, physics and computing section. I really like their selection of popular science books (great gifts for friends who ask me “so, what did you do your PhD in?”). No visit is complete without a browse of the travel shelves. This feeds our wanderlust and has often inspired our travels.

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I am usually not able to resist the lovely and quirky stationery bits and bobs. Inevitably, Alice in Wonderland notecards or a new notebook with a floral cover will find their way into my purchases. I love the feeling I get when I leave the bookshop with my new books. I think it’s the potential that they’ll introduce me to new worlds, new ideas, and new favourite people (fictional or otherwise) that does it. Buying books is up there with buying new shoes on the happiness scale, I reckon.


‘When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.’
— Desiderius Erasmus


These bookshop dates really do put a smile on my face and they are such a lovely activity. There’s always a book that will spark a memory or an idea and lead to real conversation that veers away from work and little daily struggles. We end up returning home feeling optimistic (because if all else fails, at least we will be well-read) and refreshed. On a dull Tuesday this is all I can really ask for.

Summer moments

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August is here and there is an almost imperceptible change in the air. Blushing apples in the orchard, blackberries ripening on the hedgerows, busy squirrels in the garden,  a chill in the early mornings. Autumn is discreetly placing its calling cards all around us. There will still be warm and sunny days (I hope!), but autumn is waiting backstage for summer to finish its dance.

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This makes me want to hold on to summer, squeeze in all my favourite summer activities, and cherish those special summer moments.

  1. Incredibly green canopies and dappled warm light in the forest. These are moments filled with gratitude. Seeing the sunlight dance with the leaves always makes me feel that everything is as it should be.
  2. Rotund bumble bees on lavender plants. We owe the bees so much and we must do our best to save them, so it fills me with joy to see them visit our garden.
  3. Wearing my favourite summer dresses that come out year after year. And on a related note, dresses with pockets! Like revisiting old friends.
  4. Cats napping in the shady parts of the garden. I love observing the habits and rhythms of the neighbourhood cats. On hot and stuffy days it seemed snoozing and stretching were the most important things. I think I’d really like that too!
  5. Warm evening walks around the neighbourhood. No need to take a jumper! There’s always something pretty growing in a neighbour’s garden, a wandering cat to be stroked, a sparrow singing from a tree branch.
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  7. Everything about elderflower. Foraging, making cordial, and then enjoying a refreshing drink. I picked some elderflower in June and made a few bottles of cordial. It’s such a refreshing drink, to me it’s the essence of summer.
  8. Long, yellow grass moving in the breeze. I always think nothing can compare to the spring wildflowers but I must admit that there is magic in the air when the meadows put on their golden summer robes.
  9. Thunderstorms. We were out for a short walk the other day when, as if out of nowhere, dark clouds gathered and it was like someone turned off the light. Running for cover when those first, fat drops started to fall, thunder roaring up ahead, I could help but laugh. I felt very alive in that moment and I guess, happy too.

I’d love it if you’d share some of your favourite summer moments and activities with me.

Raindrops on roses etc

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…

When July turns grey and wet, the best thing to do is wait for a break in the rain and then run out in the garden in your pyjamas to take pictures. Right?

I snapped these pictures in about 5 minutes and then had to run back inside when the rain started again. Maria Von Trapp may have sang about raindrops on roses but I think raindrops on delicate, colourful petals of any kind are a very special thing indeed.

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