The Friends e-bulletin, January 2014

Our e-bulletin is published every four months, between the Friends’ newsletters, to give 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:
The next e-bulletin will be published in May.

Welcome from the editor

Friends' events: Plant Sale (1st June), Opera (16th July); A new promotion; Garden visits; Friends' coffee mornings at the Garden; Insight tours at the Arboretum

Volunteers at the Garden and Arboretum

Teas at the Arboretum

The Bobarts Group's 10th anniversary

Garden & Arboretum news:  The Plants 400 Project; The Oxford Medicinal Plants Scheme of WWII

Article: Botanical Gardens in California                                                                                                             Winter shadows in the Walled Garden


Welcome from the editor, Seonaid Danziger

Welcome to this Friends’ Bulletin. As always, there are numerous events coming up which we hope will be of great interest to you, in particular the Friends' Plant Sale on Sunday 1st June and the Friends' Opera on Wednesday 16th July.  In addition to information about activities at the Garden and Arboretum, this e-bulletin contains important requests and information about other events.

If you're familiar with the the Garden and Arboretum websites you'll be aware of how much other interesting information is available; if not, I recommend that you explore and In this e-bulletin, for example, there is information about an exciting new project, Plants 400,  which is accessible via

The emphasis in the e-bulletin is very much on the contribution made by Friends to the work of the Garden and Arboretum. Articles and photographs are always welcome, so please do contact me with comments, suggestions or contributions for the next e-bulletin.. This bulletin includes a very interesting and inspiring article from Rosemary Kember about her recent visit to botanical gardens in California, for which we thank her very much.

Seonaid (pronounced Shornid) Danziger,                                                                    Rain-enhanced Acer at the Arboretum

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Friends' events

The Friends' Plant Sale, Sunday 1st June 2014, 11am - 4pm at Harcourt Arboretum


Maura Allen (left) writes:

The Arboretum is a beautiful setting for the Friends' largest fundraising event and we have been very lucky to have had excellent weather in recent years. The multitude of trestle tables, covered with plants of every type, will form an avenue from the original Pinetum towards the wild flower meadows stretching west. Not only will you be able to buy herbaceous plants, shrubs, vegetable seedlings, herbs, tender perennials and house plants, but we will also have our very popular advise table, second-hand garden book stall, pot and garden paraphernalia stall and a new plant tombola. We hope to add to this wonderful event by inviting craftsmen and women who work in wood to demonstrate their skills and sell their wares. Refreshments will include lunchtime food and drinks, as well as teas, coffees and cakes.

As always we are looking for help in every aspect of this event, so if you feel you assist by volunteering or donating plants, cakes or books,  please do contact me, Maura Allen, on, 01865 311711. We are very grateful to people from local villages who will be helping us this year.


Tom Price in Walled Garden, dividing plants in the Perenial Border,
ready for repotting by volunteers in preparation for the Plant Sale


The Friends' Opera: L’Infideltà delusa  by Joseph Haydn

Performed by New Chamber Opera, Wednesday 16th July, in the Warden’s Garden, New College, Oxford

Carol Maxwell (left) writes: The earliest recorded performance of L’Infideltà delusa, a ‘burletta per musica’, was given at the Palace of Eszterháza in Hungary on 26th July 1773. This was the name day of the Dowager Princess Estaházy and is the date given in the printed libretto. The opera is set in the Tuscan countryside and tells the tale of rural folk, with much trickery and many disguises, but ending as all good tales should, with not one but two marriages.

Ticket application forms will be sent to Friends with the next newsletter in March. Tickets (£44.00 each) will be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and will be sent out in early June.


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Watch out for a new promotion in April 2014!

Anna Nasmith (left) writes:

We know that one of our best sources of new members is recommendation from existing Friends. So to encourage more of your friends to join us, we are inviting you to bring a companion to the Garden or Arboretum for free every day in April. We hope your friend(s) will sign up to become members of the Friends of the Garden & Arboretum, and if they do, you will receive a £5 voucher as a “thank you”, to be redeemed against tickets for Friends’ events and visits, or for the Garden and Arboretum’s Public Education Programme.



Garden visits

These are, as ever, very popular and our thanks are due to the team which organises them - Jane Annett, Pauline Coombes and Harriet Bretherton.

There are still places available on:

Artists in the Garden on Friday 7th February, 7.00pm
Painswick Rococo Garden on Sunday 23rd February, 2.30pm
Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens (left) on Thursday 27th March, 2.00pm

Please book using this booking form. Further details are available in the Friends' newsletter.


Please note that these visits are now fully booked: Ditchley Park (2nd April), Blewbury Manor & Ashbrook House (25th April).


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Friends’ coffee mornings

The first Friday of every month (except January and August) in the Garden’s Conservatory, 10:30 to 11:30am. After coffee a member of staff leads a tour of the Garden. No fee and no booking required.

7th February, 7th March, 4th April, 2nd May, 6th June

At recent coffee mornings Friends have been given a tour by Gardens Curator Tom Price, who explained plans for developing the Garden; had a very interesting talk on alpines from Glasshouse Horticuturalist Lucinda Lachelin (right, with member of the Friends Aubrey Greenwood); and were taken around the Garden by Education Officer Sarah Lloyd, looking for the solutions to a missing-word puzzle (below) that she had set for secondary school students.


See how well you do - the answers are surprising!










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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 5th February, 5th March, 2nd April, 7th May, 4th June, 1.30pm to 3.00pm [note new, earlier time], no fee and no booking required, just turn up.



Arboretum Arboriculturalist Guy Horwood completes the planting of a Hamamelis


Volunteers at the Garden and Harcourt Arboretum

In September a party was held at the Garden to thank the many volunteers who help both at the Garden and at the Arboretum. If you were amongst them I hope you can pick yourself out in this photograph!  All the help provided by volunteers is very much appreciated and every single task is important, whether it is weeding, stuffing envelopes, organising events or encouraging others to become Friends.



If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Mary Isaac.



Mary (right, with Harriet Bretherton standing behind) writes: I've have been Volunteer Coordinator for three years now, and as some of you know, the volunteer roles at the Garden and Arboretum are developing all the time; we have a wonderful new programme for 2014 with lots of new roles. I would like to find someone who could share the co-ordinating work with me. The person would need good IT skills (Word and Excel) and good communication skills. The work will be largely home-based and will involve sending out information about what roles are on offer, responding to enquiries from potential volunteers, handling questions from current volunteers and helping to organise the volunteer database. It would take about two to three hours a week on average. Garden and Arboretum staff are always hugely supportive and keen to help and it is good to be involved in such a worthwhile activity.

If you are interested, please contact me. Thank you!

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Teas at the Arboretum

Sally Orriss writes: Refreshments served by members of Friends are much appreciated by visitors to the Arboretum, who welcome a warm cup of tea or coffee and a piece of homemade cake on the colder days in the early spring; throughout the summer we offer cool drinks, cakes and ice lollies for the children.

In 2014 we willl serve refreshments every Sunday from 2pm to 4pm and we would welcome volunteers to help with this very worthwhile and enjoyable task. Each volunteer will help on one or two Sundays during the year, and/or provide a homemade cake of their choice. If you're able to help please contact me. Many thanks!




The Bobarts Group of the Friends - 10th anniversary                                              

Jenny Turner (right) writes: 2013 was another very successful year for the Bobarts. I am continually amazed by the hospitality of the owners who welcome us to their very beautiful gardens. The gardens are all so special and I am sure that the Bobarts members would agree with me that we all really appreciate the time that the owners and their gardeners spend with us as we walk around their gardens. We have a lot of fun, as well as knowing that we have provided much needed extra funds for the Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum. 

Last year we had two visits to London, first to the botanical art and Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens then the RHS Lindley Library. In June we went to the Coach House in Ampney Crucis were roses and peonies were in full bloom and the individual garden rooms were exciting to explore. The borrowed view of the medieval church and manor house contrasted with the next garden we visited at Oxleaze Farm which is situated in the middle of farmland with resulting open vistas. Lunch was served there in a recently restored barn. We also organised our first coach trip which was to Highgrove, the private garden of TRH the Prince of Wales (Patron of the Friends) and the Duchess of Cornwall.

This year we have another exciting programme with three double visits to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  We will first visit the botanical art and garden at Corpus Christi College in Oxford, founded in 1517.  In April we have a return visit to the gardens of Worcester College, Oxford. This 26 acre garden is one of the finest in the city. The annual Bobarts Reception will be held at the Oxford Botanic Garden in May with talks by the Curators. In June we will visit Adwell Manor and Dreamers Cottage, the latter is a one-third-acre garden producing fruit, vegetables and herbs in a sustainable yet stylish approach. In early July we will be at Springhill House, a secret 1-acre plantswoman’s garden, followed by a visit to the Old Vicarage with its hybrid Japanese maple plantation and rare plantsLater in the summer we have yet more interesting gardens to visit.

If you are not already a member of the Bobarts, please consider joining the group in this its 10th anniversary year. Further information can be found here.

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Garden and Arboretum news

The Plants 400 Project

July 2021 marks 400 years of botanical research and teaching by the University of Oxford. As a celebration and count-down to this anniversary, the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, together with the Oxford University Herbaria and the Department of Plant Sciences, is highlighting 400 plants of scientific and cultural significance. Since November 2013, one plant is being profiled each week week by a botanical expert, with images associated with the plant from Oxford University's living and preserved collections.

The first of plants to be featured in Plants 400 was the yew tree (right), planted in the Garden in 1645.

To see all the plant profiles, go to




The Oxford Medicinal Plants Scheme of World War II

Alison Foster, Senior Curator (left) writes: To combat shortages of plant-derived drugs such as atropine and digitoxin during the Second World War, crops of medicinal plants were grown at the University's Botanic Garden, in Headington, and in Islip at the home of the organiser of the Scheme, Dr William James. The synthesis and properties of these drugs were explored in the University's botany and pharmacology laboratories.

We would like to know more, so if you were involved in, or have knowledge of, the Oxford Medicinal Plants Scheme, please contact Peter Ayres or  Alison Foster.


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Californian Botanic Gardens, as experienced by a Friend

Rosemary Kember, a member of the Friends, writes:

In October 2013 I was lucky enough to have a three-week holiday in California. I visited three botanic gardens: San Diego, the Huntington (San Marino) and San Francisco. At San Diego Botanic Garden I was ably guided by my cousin who lives nearby and is a volunteer there. California boasts more native plants than all other American states combined and the mild climate in the south of the State means that at San Diego Botanic Garden over 3,300 species and varieties of plants from all over the world thrive. Most are grouped in gardens (29 in all, spread over 37 acres) which relate to a particular type of habitat or specific kind of plant, for example the 'Australian Garden' and 'Palm Canyon'.  

San Diego Botanic Garden was originally a farm which later became the private residence of Ruth Baird Larabee, an avid plant collector and naturalist. In 1957 she donated the land to the County of San Diego as a park and wildlife sanctuary. It opened to the public in 1971 as 'Quail Gardens' with a name change to 'Quail Botanical Gardens' in 1984. When San Diego County ceased support a non-profit foundation was set up and in 2009 the name was changed to San Diego Botanic Garden. The mission of the Garden is "to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature”. No doubt this is the aim of every botanic garden around the world! San Diego can certainly claim to fulfil its mission as the Garden is well organised, beautifully kept, well-labelled, and has boards with extra information to educate the visitor all along the four miles of garden trails. 


The Bottle Tree Adansonia


In spite of the constant sunshine and low rainfall I was amazed at how green and lush everywhere looked in the San Diego area. This of course is due to the extensive use of irrigation. However, the Garden is conscious of conserving water and has a long tradition of demonstrating low water plants and gardens. Recycled water is used here too.



I particularly enjoyed the variety of trees which included bottle trees, cork oak trees, floss silk trees with lovely pink flowers and their ‘signature’ tree, the Dragon Tree (right). In the Children’s Garden there is even a ‘concrete’ tree complete with a tree house and jungle canopy (below)!  They have left a dead Monterey cypress in place too although I’m sure health & safety rules wouldn’t allow that here!  The reason is well explained to the visitor:  this tree is home to an acorn woodpecker.






My next garden visit was to the Huntington in San Marino near Pasadena. This is an amazing institution which is a private non-profit collections-based research educational establishment founded in 1919 by Henry E Huntington. He had a special interest in books, art and gardens so there are three distinct facets to the Huntington: the library, the art collections and the botanical gardens. It is a huge area of 207 acres of grounds, with more than a dozen gardens covering 120 acres. A visitor would need at least a week to see everything! I was lucky to be given a guided tour by American friends.  Again the Garden is well kept and many plants labelled. The Desert Garden, a large outdoor grouping of mature cacti and other succulents, was particularly impressive. I spotted plenty of Euphorbia. 

I also loved the Japanese garden featuring a moon bridge, a Japanese house and ceremonial tea house. Next to this was a Chinese garden, 'Liu Fang Yuan', or 'Garden of Flowing Fragrance', which featured a lake and a complex of pavilions. Each Wednesday afternoon a different solo musician performs traditional Chinese music on classical instruments in one of the pavilions. We enjoyed a wonderful recital given on an erhu, which is a spike fiddle. The music echoed over the lake. 

The climate in San Francisco is quite different to that in southern California and is renowned for its multitude of microclimates. The weather can change quickly and it is advised to dress in layers as it can be warm one minute and much colder twenty minutes later, or vice versa.  October is considered to be one of the warmest months but it got quite chilly in the evenings. Of course there is also the famous fog which rolls in. One day it was practically impossible to see the Golden Gate Bridge even whilst driving across it because of the fog; the next day it was sunny with no fog and a brilliant view of the city of San Francisco.  As an aside, apparently the fog has its own Twitter account called Carl!  

There is a large public park and recreational area in San Francisco called the Golden Gate Park containing several attractions. It was there that I visited the de Young Museum (a wonderful art gallery), San Francisco Botanical Garden and a Japanese Tea Garden. The Botanical Garden covers 55 acres and displays over 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world. In contrast to the other two botanic gardens I visited, this Garden looked in need of some attention. It is divided into specific gardens and included a century-old Redwood Grove, an award-winning California Native Garden and a unique Cloud Forest. Although it is open all year round, the Garden's main season is April to September. It would be interesting to visit at a different time of year as I expect it changes a great deal, due to the variable climate. In the guidebook it mentions carpets of wild lilacs, golden poppies, a magnolia collection and more. A return trip is definitely planned!!


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