The Rock Garden was first constructed in 1926, and was later redesigned between November 2019 and June 2021 with support from the Martin Wills Trust. The 125 tonnes of sandstone were originally brought from a local quarry in Tubney, six miles west of Oxford and additional stone has been added from Purbeck in Dorset to create a small cliff face as part of recent renovations
The Rock Garden has recently undergone significant redesign to create a geographical plant display that illustrates former Director John Sibthorp’s 18th century journeys in the eastern Mediterranean which gave rise to the Flora Graeca, a very significant botanical work associated with Oxford Botanic Garden. The eastern side of the Rock Garden contains groupings of endemic plants from Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Crete as well as from Israel. The western side of the Rock Garden is being developed to represent endemic flora from the western half of the Mediterranean including Sicily, Majorca and the Iberian peninsular.
In late winter, there is a fine display of snowdrops, followed by the flowering of species tulips in the spring and a mixture of Mediterranean annuals and perennials such as Cistus which give off their aromatic oils in this sunny, sheltered location. The dramatic Dracunculus vulgaris with its odorous dark purple flower spathes can be seen here in May.