The Friends’ electronic bulletin, January 2013
Our e-bulletin is published every four months, between the Friends’ newsletter. It's an attractive source of up-to-date news and features about the Garden, the Arboretum and Friends’ events and activities. If you are a Friend and you would like to be sent an e-mail notification when a new bulletin is published (January, May and September), please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends' e-bulletin, January 2013
The Botanic Garden's Christmas tree was in the Conservatory throughout December, adorned with decorations made from natural materials
(The next e-bulletin will be published in mid May)
Welcome from Richard Mayou, Chairman of the Friends
Welcome to the latest e-bulletin from the Friends of Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum. The Garden and Arboretum continue to expand and improve their electronic news and information, with continually-evolving new websites (www.botanic-garden.ox.ac.uk and www.harcourt-arboretum.ox.ac.uk), blogs (http://oxfordbg.blogspot.co.uk), and Twitter and Facebook sites (www.facebook.com/OBGHA).
At the Friends we’ll also continue to develop the ways in which we communicate with members about our own activities and about what’s happening at the Garden and the Arboretum. This means more use of technology but also a new editor for this e-bulletin, Seonaid Danziger, who brings new skills and new ideas. We are very grateful to her for taking on this important task.
The e-bulletin will continue to alternate with, and complement, the very successful and popular Garden and Arboretum newsletter which is sent to Friends in paper or electronic format in March, July and November.
As you’d imagine, I’m very much feeling my way in taking on the important task of editing this e-bulletin, and I’d appreciate your comments, suggestions and even contributions! I know that many Friends take superb photographs in the Garden and Arboretum; if you’d enjoy seeing these in the bulletin, and would like the rest of us to enjoy them too, do please contact me – as we all know “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I look forward to hearing from you.
With thanks and best wishes,
Seonaid [pronounced Shornid] Danziger, email@example.com
Mary Isaac, Events Group and Volunteer Coordinator, writes: 2013 is a celebratory year, as it is the 50th anniversary of the Oxford Botanic Garden taking over management of Harcourt Arboretum. We have two major events planned:
Saturday 1st June: an evening champagne reception for Friends and other supporters, followed by a fundraising dinner, in a marquee at the Arboretum, with a high profile guest speaker and an auction of promises.
Sunday 30th June: 'Let’s go down to the woods today - a celebration of 50 years of the Arboretum'. A family-friendly day at the Arboretum, open to all and free to members of the Friends. We have lots of fun events planned: tree climbing, a photography workshop, a painting exhibition and sale, charcoal burning, storytelling, woodland crafts, trails, and willow tunnels. Food will be served all day.
So do put those dates in your diary! Further information will be available in the March newsletter.
Autumn colour at the Arboretum, October 2012
The Friends will be serving home-made teas at the Arboretum on some Sundays and at family-friendly days throughout next spring and summer, dates to be announced soon. These teas proved very popular last year and we look forward to seeing many of you there again in 2013. They are run entirely by volunteers, so if you'd like to help on one of the days, or to make a cake in advance, we'd love to hear from you. Do get in touch with Sally Orriss firstname.lastname@example.org, 07787 555 424, or Mary Isaac email@example.com, 0776 224 1881. Thank you
The Friends’ Events Group at an informal meeting
to discuss our plans for activities in 2013
New Chamber Opera will perform Handel’s Tamerlano, in English, on Wednesday 10th July in the Warden’s Garden of New College, Oxford. Ticket application forms will be sent to Friends with the next newsletter in March. Tickets (£44 each) will be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and will be sent out in early June.
The Turco-Mongolian ruler Tarmerlane
- The Herbaria, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Saturday 9th March, two visits at 11.00am and at 2.00pm
- Steane Park Garden, Saturday 6th April, 2.00pm
- Miserden Park Gardens, Friday 26th April , 2.00pm
- Coach trip to Bowood House, Saturday 4th May, departing 9.00am
- Burmington Grange, Saturday 18th May, 2.30pm
The following visits are now fully booked:
- Britwell House, 10th February
- Hanwell Castle, 16th February
- Shotover House, 23rd March
A new member of the Friends enjoying Autumn in the Garden
Friends’ coffee mornings
On the first Friday of every month (except January and August) in the Garden’s Conservatory. After coffee a member of staff leads a tour of the Garden.
Fridays: 1st February, 1st March, 5th April, 3rd May, 10.30am to 11.30am, no fee and no booking required, just turn up.
Sunday plant tours at the Botanic Garden
These tours are with the Director Timothy Walker, structured around plants of particular interest for the time of year. They are crammed with botanical information and horticultural tips and are great fun. A plant list is provided.
Sundays 24th February, 12th May, 30th June, 8th September, 10th November, 10.00am to 11.30am, Friends £2, guests £6 (includes entry to the Garden), no booking required, just turn up.
Insight tours at the Arboretum
Friends are very welcome to join these free tours, which are a great opportunity for Arboretum staff to show off the latest developments, and for visitors to give their thoughts and opinions as well as to ask questions.
Wednesdays 6th February, 6th March, 3rd April, 1st May, 2.00pm to 3.30pm, no fee and no booking required, just turn up.
The Botanic Garden Winter lectures
The Botanic Garden Winter lectures run each year from late January until late March and feature renowned garden designers, garden historians and plantsmen and women sharing their passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for all things horticultural.
This year the first lecture is by award-wining garden historian Andrea Wulf, on Thursday 24th January. Full details here.
Tickets cost £12 per lecture or £54 for the whole series of five, and include a glass of wine or a soft drink after the lecture. Tickets can be purchased online.
The Glasshouses at the Garden
Kate Pritchard, Glasshouse Curator writes: The star of the show under glass at the moment is the Agave sisalana in the Arid House, producing the most incredible inflorescence that increases in height on a daily basis. The flowers have yet to open but the glaucus green-blue and dark red coloured spike is quite beautiful as it is. It is from this plant that sisal rope is made and unfortunately once it has flowered the main plant will die; but fear not, it readily produces off-shoots and we have a replacement plant.
Agave sisalana and (right) detail of the inflorescence
which is currently nearing the Arid House roof
Outdoors at the Garden
Tom Price, Gardens Curator, writes: Snowdrops are coming into flower in the Garden, as are many of winter flowering shrubs including Hamamelis mollis and Viburnum bodnantense.
The beautifully-scented witch hazel Hamamelis mollis in the Walled Garden, near the pond
You won't be surprised to hear that large parts of the Lower Garden (right) have been under water this winter, but we’re hoping that damage is minimal.
Our volunteers are currently assisting with essential winter jobs – cutting back herbaceous material, pruning wall climbers and shrubs, leaf clearance and border maintenance. Their help is very much appreciated.
My trip to Japan in November with Arboretum Curator Ben Jones was a huge success. We travelled from Hokkaido in the north down to Shikoku in the south, and to many places in between. Good contacts were established and some interesting field sites surveyed for seed collecting over the next few years. Ben and I will write a full piece for the next newsletter in March and in the meantime we've been blogging.
Lynn Daley, Education and Outreach Officer, writes: Wednesday 5th December saw the Arboretum bathed in winter sunshine for our regular monthly insight tour. To make the most of the weather, we started our walk up through the meadow and into Lime Wood.
December sunshine at the Arboretum
Here we looked at an eco-pile, which resembles a large heap of twigs (right) and which provides a safe place for hedgehogs to hibernate and a home for many species of woodland insect throughout the winter.
We then visited a tree slice, six of which were originally placed in an area at the top of Lime Wood. They provide instant mini-beast hunts for visiting primary school children and help to show teachers on Continuing Professional Development courses how they can enhance the wildlife and education value of outdoor spaces in their school grounds. By carefully lifting the tree slice (left) you can see all the animals that live underneath. They provide homes for woodlice, slugs, snails, centipedes and millipedes throughout the year and have been known to provide temporary accommodation for newts too.
From Lime Wood, we continued into the native tree area of Palmer’s Leys from which we had a good view across the meadow to where the Castlemilk Moorit sheep (right) were grazing and watching us. These are the newest residents at the Arboretum and are on loan from Rycote Farm. They will lightly graze the meadow over the winter.
Walking through the native woodland section of Palmer’s Leys we discussed how young trees provide an invaluable resource for primary education courses. Children use basic keys to identify winter twigs and as the trees are planted in blocks it’s easy to ensure that all the children can have a close look at the same species at the same time. Children are then encouraged to walk along the path until they find a different type of tree to identify.
From Palmer’s Leys we walked into Bluebell Wood where the bracken had been flailed a week before. This ensures that enough light will reach the ground in spring to allow our amazing carpet of bluebells to grow.
One of the group asked about the ages of the trees at the Arboretum and so we walked from Bluebell Wood to the Serpentine Ride to visit what we believe to be the oldest tree on site (left). This wonderful oak, thought to be up to 400 years old, is set back from the Ride and has several holes in its branches which provide important homes for bats and owls.
We finished our tour with a walk through the Performance Space where a Spanish Fir acts as the Arboretum Christmas tree for visiting primary school children at this time of year. The children add decorations to the tree and regularly ponder ways in which we could place a star on top!
Do join our next insight tour on 6th February (or 6th March, 3rd April or 1st May), 2.00pm to 3.30pm, no fee and no booking required, just turn up.
by Richard Mayou, Chairman of the Friends
Until a couple of years ago I knew no more of the 1st Lord Danby KG than that he founded the Oxford Botanic Garden and that he is commemorated by the Danby Gate there. Sarah Saunders-Davies, a member of the Friends and direct descendant of Lord Danby’s sister, put me right during the Friends’ 20th anniversary party in 2011. Henry Danvers, Lord Danby, was a remarkable man – a soldier, courtier, patron of the arts and of gardening and a most colourful character. His family were also distinguished in politics and gardening. Henry and his brother John were central to the founding of Britain’s two oldest botanic gardens.
Henry Danvers (1573-1644) came from an old Wiltshire family of three brothers and a sister. He became a page to the courtier, soldier and poet of Arcadia, Sir Philip Sidney. He volunteered for military service with the Prince of Orange and was knighted. At this time he first met the Earl of Arundel who collected the Greek marbles now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which were the first comprehensive collection of such marble statues in Britain.
Henry and his elder brother Sir Charles became involved in a family feud and in 1594 murdered a neighbour, Henry Long. They were outlawed but with the help of Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton, they fled to France where they joined the military forces of Henry IV. Their outstanding valour led to the King interceding with Queen Elizabeth on their behalf. This support and the vigorous lobbying of their mother resulted in pardons in 1598. During their travels in Europe, Henry and Charles met the artist and diplomat Peter Paul Rubens and visited botanic gardens, most notably the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, founded in 1597.
On their return home Charles became involved in the Earl of Essex’s conspiracy and was beheaded. Henry was more cautious and after a successful and prominent period as a soldier in Ireland he was created Baron Danby by James I. He was also a favourite courtier of Prince Henry, Prince of Wales, and of his brother, who later became Charles I. Danby helped both men to acquire major collections of paintings. Notably, acting as a key intermediary, he negotiated and won the commission for Rubens to paint the ceiling panels in the Banqueting Hall at the Palace of Whitehall.
Danby had numerous other royal duties and titles including Ranger and Launderer of Wychwood Park, which was associated with the royal gift of his home at Cornbury Park. He was also Governor of Castle Cornet in Guernsey. He was created Earl of Danby in 1626 and a Knight of the Garter in 1633. He was painted by Van Dyck (above) wearing full Garter robes and proudly displaying a prominent battle scar on his face which had become black by being treated with pitch.
Danby founded the Oxford Botanic Garden in 1621 and commissioned the mason and sculptor Nicholas Stone to work both here and at Cornbury. Stone recorded in his notebook: “Agreed with Right Honbl the Earll of Danby for to make 3 stone gates in the physek garden Oxford and to design a new hows for him at Cornbury in Oxfordshire and to direct the workmen and make all thar…..I was thar in 2 years 33 times and my covenant of accord with his lordp was 1000l.” Danby spent more than £5,000 on acquiring the leases of the Garden, laying it out and building the walls and gates. In addition in his will he left the Rectory of Kirkdale in Yorkshire to the University to maintain the Garden and for the teaching of botany.
The Botanic Garden walls and gates by Nicholas Stone.
The Danby Arch is in the bottom right-hand corner.
Print by William Williams, 1734.
Danby died peacefully on January 20th 1644 aged 71 at Cornbury Park (pictured left, showing the wing designed by Nicholas Stone) . He was buried in a fine marble tomb in the church of St James the Great, Dauntsey, Wiltshire. The antiquary John Aubrey, a distant relative, wrote of him: “Sir Henry Danvers, Earle of Danby, was second son of old Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey. He was of a magnificent and munificent spirit; and made that noble Physic-garden at Oxford, and endowed with I think 30 pounds per annum. [He] was page to Sir Philip Sidney. He perfected his Latin when a man by parson Oldham of Dodmerton; was a perfect master of the French; a historian; Tall and spare; Temperate; sedate and solid; a very great favourite with Prince Henry. He bred up several brave young gentlemen and preferred them; lived most at Cornbury; great improver of his Estate, to eleven thousand pounds per annum, near twelve. All his servants were sober and wise in their respective places.”
Danby’s close family also made exceptional and lasting contributions to gardening. His younger brother Sir John Danvers, a Royalist MP for Oxford who later became a supporter of Parliament, had a house and a fine garden at Chelsea next to what had been Sir Thomas More’s estate. After his death, the garden was leased and became the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1673.
The Chelsea Physic Garden in London - the second oldest botanic garden
Danby’s niece, Dorothy Osborne, wrote engaging and later famous letters to the diplomat Sir William Temple during a long and clandestine courtship. Eventually they married, created a famous garden at Moor Park House, Surrey (www.gardenvisit.com/garden/moor_park_surrey), and wrote a seminal book on gardening, Upon the Gardens of Epicurus. Nicholas Pevsner wrote of the serpentine garden that it “started a line of thought and visual conceptions which were to dominate first England and then the World for two centuries. It is the first suggestion ever of a possible beauty fundamentally different from the formal, a beauty of irregularity and fancy”.
When in 2021 we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Oxford Botanic Garden, we should make much of the brothers and their niece who did so much for the English Garden.
I am grateful to Sarah Saunders-Davies for information, corrections and suggestions.
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