Visits and Events

Visits and events for Friends and their guests

 Garden visits 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Spring/Summer programme

Once again we would like thank all of you who have supported the Friends’ Garden Visits Programme during this year; also the garden owners who have generously welcomed the Friends.  We hope that these visits will tempt you to come along. We welcome your ideas for future gardens to visit so should you have any suggestions, please contact Harriet Bretherton: Email: 

Booking Tickets for Garden Visits: We are for the time being abandoning online ticketing for technical reasons. All bookings, until further notice, will therefore be by post. The tickets themselves will be sent by email if we are given an email address. Visits tend to get booked up quickly so to avoid disappointment please make your booking as soon as possible, via the Garden Visits  below. If you have any queries, contact Freya Jones email or telephone 07472 365001.


Wednesday 28th March, 2.30pm
SOLD OUT - Private tour of Shotover House with daffodils, Shotover House, Wheatley, Oxon OX33 1QS

By kind permission of Alexander and Camilla Stanier

We are privileged to have a private tour of Shotover House preceded by an introductory talk from the owner, Sir Beville Stanier, or his son, Alexander. The house, constructed by 1718, was surrounded by formal gardens, pleasure grounds and a landscape park designed in the 1730s by William Kent. We will tour the gardens to see the wonderful drifts of daffodils, followed by tea in the house.

Friends £15, guest £20
Maximum 60

Wednesday 4th April, 2.00pm
SOLD OUT - Private visit to Upper Green, Brill Road, Horton cum Studley, Oxon OX33 1BU

By kind permission of Mr Peter and Dr Susan Burge

A mature but informal ½-acre wild-life friendly garden on heavy Oxfordshire clay with views to the Chilterns. Dense planting in mixed borders with a wide range of herbaceous plants, shrub roses, ferns and grasses provide shape and colour throughout the year. The garden includes a small gravel garden, potager, bog garden, pond (great crested newts in residence) and rock bed. Alpine troughs are a recent introduction. In spring the garden is a carpet of colour with marsh marigolds, primroses, hellebores, euphorbias, snake’s head fritillaries, crocuses, tulips and naturalised daffodils under apple trees. Plant lists are available. Tea and cake served.

Friends £12, guest £17
Maximum 25

Friday 20th April, 2.30pm
SOLD OUT - Private visit to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Marston Road, Oxford OX3 0EE

By kind permission of The Director and Fellows of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies provides a meeting point between the Islamic and Western worlds of learning. Through good scholarship it promotes a more informed understanding of Islam - its culture and civilisation. We shall have a tour of the building; its design and form represents harmonious blending of traditional Oxford and Islamic styles. The Garden Master, Hugh Dickinson, will then take us around the garden which he and the Prince of Wales designed.  Tea & cake included.

Friends £13, guest £18
Maximum 40

Friday 4th May, 2.30pm
Private visit to Wormsley Estate Walled Garden, Stokenchurch, High Wycombe, Bucks HP14 3YE

By kind permission of The Wormsley Estate

This special visit to the Wormsley Estate Walled Garden opens our Friends' summer programme. Dating from the mid-1700s, the 2 acre garden was originally designed by Richard Woods, contemporary of Capability Brown. Neglected for the better part of a century, the gardens were brought back to life when Sir Paul and Lady Getty commissioned distinguished garden designer, Penelope Hobhouse, to redesign this beautiful space. Penelope divided the space into garden rooms, enabling visitors to move from 'room to room' exploring features such as the beautiful rose garden, croquet lawn, magnificent pergola and the 'Green Theatre'. Pimms and nibbles served at the end of the visit.

Friends £20, guests £25
Maximum 50

Sunday 13th May
Coach visit to view Exbury Garden's Rothschild Rhododendron Collection, Exbury, Southampton SO45 1AZ

By kind permission of Exbury Gardens Limited
Exbury Gardens are a spectacular 200 acre site, world-famous for the Rothschild Collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias displaying a riot of colour at the time of our visit. The Gardens were the inspiration of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, whose vision, dedication and resources created one of the finest woodland gardens in the country. We will be given a tour by the Head Gardener, Tom Clarke, lasting 2 hours. This visit involves lots of walking, though there is also a miniature steam train. Refreshments not included. There are two cafés or bring a picnic.
Friends £40, guests £45
Maximum 50

Friday 8th June, 2.30pm
SOLD OUT - Private visit to Friar Park, Friar Park, Badgemore, Henley-on-Thames, RG9

By kind permission of the owner
An exclusive opportunity to visit Friar Park. The rockery, which will be at its peak when we visit, was meant to remind the original owner of the Alps, with its meadow, scree and cascade. There is a woodland walk, a lake and exceptional planting schemes.  The Head Gardener will take us on a tour of the garden. Refreshments included. 
Friends £30; Visit only open to Friends. 
Maximum 15

Saturday 16th June, 11.00am or 2.30pm
Private visit to Moat Farm, Water Lane, Ford, Aylesbury HP17 8XD

By kind permission of Mrs P Bergqvist
This is a new garden to us and we’re delighted to be invited to visit. A country garden with herbaceous borders, perennial flowers, roses, hostas, interesting trees and water. A moat that flows through the garden and a blind moat through the arboretum. Small walled garden with vegetables. Refreshments included at morning and/or afternoon visits.
Friends £15, guests £20
Maximum per visit 20

Monday 25th June
Coach trip to visit Mottisfont followed by The Island, Mottisfont, Mottisfont Lane, Romsey, Hants SO51 0LP

By kind permission of The National Trust
The walled gardens at Mottisfont are home to the world-famous National Collection of pre-1900 old-fashioned roses, which reach their peak in June. These roses tend to flower just once a year, so their full summer blooming is an extraordinary sight. As well as the rose garden, there are ancient trees, the Test river and the house to visit. Refreshments not included so bring a picnic or visit one of the cafés.
The Island
Greatbridge, Romsey,  Hants SO51 0HP 
By kind permission of Christopher and Sarah Saunders-Davies
The Island, owned by a Friend, Sarah Saunders-Davies and her husband, Christopher, is 6 acres of expansive yet secluded garden bordering the fast flowing river Test; a mini-Paradise. Derek Collins, the Head Gardener, will introduce us to the pleasure gardens, herbaceous borders, and an arboretum. Refreshments included.
Friends £33, guests £38 
If not a National Trust member, additional £11.00 cash required for admittance to Mottisfont.
Maximum 50

Thursday 28th June 
Private double visit to Ablington Manor followed by Awkward Hill Cottage Garden 

3.00pm Ablington Manor, Ablington, Glos GL7
By kind permission of Mr and Mrs Robert Cooper
This visit of two contrasting gardens starts at Ablington Manor in its tranquil setting. The 4-acre garden, through which the river Coln runs, surrounds the 16th century Grade 1 listed manor house (not open). There are herbaceous borders, a small walled garden with rose pergolas, large lawn, woodland garden, small meadow arboretum, unusual yew topiary and two gazebos for tea, which is included. 
 5.00pm Awkward Hill Cottage, Awkward Hill, Bibury, Glos GL7 5NH
By kind permission of Mrs Victoria Summerley

Another first for our Friends, Awkward Hill Cottage is a garden in progress. The owner, Victoria Summerley, will welcome us with an introductory talk. Over the past six years, Victoria has created a garden which complements the surrounding countryside, offering year-round interest.  A wildlife pond with waterfall is home to frogs and toads and pollinator-friendly plants dominate the borders; grasses add movement. The result is a garden full of vibrancy, shapes and texture. Drinks and nibbles included.

Friends £30, guests £35
Maximum 30

Tuesday 3rd July
Private visit to Upper Chalford Farm 

2.30pm Upper Chalford Farm, Chinnor, Oxfordshire, OX39 4NH
By kind permission of Mr Paul and Mrs Jane Rooksby
Upper Chalford Farm is a Jacobean farmhouse (not open) garden surrounded by fields, old roses, shrubs and perennials. Unusual trees, an ancient black pine, and Caucasian wingnut tree. Hidden areas with different plantings. Spring fed ponds and a stream with damp planted banks; reclaimed woodland with treehouse, bog garden and wild flower meadow. Topiary, wildlife ponds and conservatory, sundials. 
Cream tea included.
Friends £15, guests £20
Maximum 30

Wednesday 11th July 
SOLD OUT - Private double visit to Wadham College followed by Rhodes House

10.30am Wadham College, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PN 
By kind permission of the Warden and Fellows of Wadham College
A double visit of particular interest because part of Wadham College’s gardens were sold for the building of Rhodes House. Wadham's Head Gardener, Andrew Little, will show us round the varied gardens within the college’s grounds. Amongst Wadham’s tree collection are a silver pendant lime, tulip tree, gingko, dawn redwood, tree of heaven, incense cedar, Corsican pine, Wollemi pine and rare Chinese gutta-percha. And in the greenhouse, a 200 year old dessert Black Hamburg vine still provides grapes for the college. Refreshments on arrival.
2.30pm Rhodes House, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3RG
By kind permission of the Warden of Rhodes House
The design of both the house and garden is typical of the Arts and Crafts style employed by country houses in the early 20th century. The gardens at Rhodes House cover approximately two acres, comprising a series of differently themed planting areas surrounding the main building. These include a large formal lawn, mixed shrub borders, grass garden, a long herbaceous border, and various smaller borders adjacent to the house filled with mixed planting. In addition to this, there is a private garden area for the use of the Warden, which contains a sunken lawn, rose arch, cut flower garden and ornamental potager.
Friends £20, guests £25
Maximum 30

Friday 20th July, 2.00pm
Private visit to Chivel Farm, Heythrop, Oxfordshire OX7 5TR

By kind permission of Mr and Mrs J D Sword
Having lived at Chivel Farm for nearly 40 years, the owners' challenge is to keep their garden refreshed. A beautifully created country garden with extensive views, designed for continuously evolving interest.  A late garden so many roses will still be flowering. Also a wide range of clematis, phlox, agapanthus, hardy and shrubby salvias and many unusual perennials in colour schemed borders. Although a dry garden, an irrigation system allows the growing of hydrangeas, particularly serrata varieties which will be in flower. Refreshments included.
Friends £15, guests £20
Maximum 40

Friday 27th July

SOLD OUT - Private double visit to Merton College Garden and The Old Library followed by the Merton Borders at the Botanic Garden

1.30pm Merton College, Merton Street, Oxford OX1 4JD
By kind permission of The Warden of Merton College, Sir Martin Taylor
Merton College's Head Gardener, Lucille Savin, will lead the tour. An all year round interest is created by a mix of familiar and unusual bulbs, perennials and shrubs.  Summer seasonal displays use exotics overwintered in the greenhouse, or grown on cuttings.  Native wildflowers love the shallow alkaline soil and a highlight is the lavender border - a magnet for bees.  The garden provides herbs for the college kitchen and quadrangles provide rooms within the garden. The Old Library building, dating from 1393, is the oldest continuously functioning library for university academics and students in the world. Refreshments will be served.

3.30 pm Merton Borders at the Botanic Garden

By kind permission of Professor Simon Hiscock, Director, Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Aboretum
The idea for the borders was first proposed in 2011 when James Hitchmough, who was then designing the London Olympic Park plantings, was approached with a view to redesigning a large area in the southern part of the Garden.  The result was the wonderful Merton Borders covering three different plant regions; North American prairies, Eurasian and South African.  Now well established, the borders more or less look after themselves, with a minimum input from the Garden staff.  They are at their most striking and colourful in mid-summer.  A member of the Garden staff will take us on the tour.
Friends £20, guests £25
Maximum 28

Events 2018 

Tuesday May 1st, 5.00 – 7.00am
May Morning 2018 at Oxford Botanic Garden

A very special event only available to the Friends and their guests See the Garden in the early morning and hear the heavenly sound of the Magdalen choristers followed by peals of bells from Magdalen Tower to welcome in the Spring. With a complimentary hot drink and croissant, you can enjoy an event that is particular to Oxford in the peace and comfort of our beautiful Garden. Introduce your friends to this wonderful place on a very special day and be a part of a 500-year old tradition in our almost 400-year old garden.

Entry via the Rose Lane gate between 5.00-5.30am
Cry Havoc, Morris dancers perform 5.15-5.45am
Friends £12, Guests £16 and children 15 and under £5
Ticket includes a complimentary coffee, or hot chocolate or tea and a croissant with homemade jam
Extra croissants £1.50, warm bacon and cheese baguettes £2.50
Bubbly will be available from £3.50 a glass from a stall run by the Garden staff
Please fill in the order form below and send by post or book online here


Sunday May 27th, 11.00am to 3.00pm
Plant Sale 2018 at Harcourt Arboretum

Arboretum gates open at 10.00am and close at 5.00pm<br style="box-sizing: border-box 11.00am - 3.00pm: plants for sale £2 per person over 15 Our biennial Plant Sale is the biggest event in the Friends’ calendar helping to raise money for the Garden and the Arboretum.

This is now our single largest fundraising event and in recent years has raised about £9,000 net each time. ALL our plants are donated from a variety of sources – the Botanic Garden, many generous Friends, College Head Gardeners (many who have been stalwart supporters), University Parks and some local nurseries. We sell almost every type of plant: hardy and tender perennials, vegetable and herb plants, shrubs, trees, grasses, ferns, indoor plants and annuals.

Entry £2 to plant sale area Tombola Friends’ Famous Tea Tent Pig Roast and other hot food
Scouts’ wheelbarrow valets
Lots of parking

Wednesday 27th June, 6.00 – 8.00pm
Friends’ Annual Summer Party

Every year we hold a summer party for the Friends, either at the Garden or at the Arboretum, to thank you for your continued support in raising money and awareness for both sites. We will be at the Garden again this year on the evening of Wednesday 27th June from 6.00 - 8.00pm.Take a stroll around the Garden in the early evening with a complimentary glass of bubbly and see the Merton and Herbaceous borders in all their early summer glory. Or take a tour with our specialist guides (whose subjects include: the Garden’s history, the Citrus collection, Literary trail, important trees in the Garden and much more). The tours offered will be advertised on the website before the party. 


We are delighted to say that TOAD (The Oxford Artisan Distillery) will be providing a gin tasting for their Physic Gin, based on seventeenth century botanicals harvested from the Garden itself.

If you plan on attending please do RSVP, either via the website or on the booking form below, as this is a huge help for catering purposes. We are very happy for guests to come along with you (a maximum of two per Friend please) and see the delights of the Garden and the benefits of becoming a Friends’ member.


Wednesday 11th July 2018
The Friends’ Opera ‘Il Mondo della Luna’ by Joseph Haydn
Sung in English by New Chamber Opera with The Band of Instruments at New College Oxford

5.00pm Pre-performance talk by Prof Michael Burden, Director of New Chamber Opera

6.30pm Opera performance in the Warden’s Garden (open from 6.00pm)

The comic opera ‘Il Mondo della Luna’, written in 1777, is a delightful mix of satire, comedy and magic, set to lovely music. The story concerns a rich old fool, who is opposed to the marriage of his two daughters and their maid to three impecunious men they love - and their efforts to outwit him.

The opera will be performed in the lovely surroundings of the Warden’s Garden at New College, or in the chapel if wet. There will be a 75-minute interval for picnicking in the cloisters.

• Tickets: £44 to include a welcoming glass of sparkling wine in the cloister garden; £3 for the pre-performance talk.

• Tickets: please use the booking form below and return to: Friends’ Opera: Freya Jones, 35 Cuddesdon Road, Oxford, OX33 1JD


Friends’ coffee mornings at the Garden.

The first Friday of every month (except January, and August) in the Garden’s Conservatory. No fee and no booking required, just turn up. 

Insight tours at the Arboretum

Friends are very welcome to join these free tours on the first Wednesday of every month, 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. 1.30pm to 3.00pm, no fee and no booking required, just turn up.


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