July: Summer Gardens at Oxford

July: Summer Gardens at Oxford

Gardens have been a constant in my life over the past month, not least as we recently hosted a wedding in our garden.  The hours of planning and planting all came together on time to create the backdrop for the perfect country wedding.   With the weekend over I return to work to receive the news of record entry numbers for this year’s OPT Awards, sixty in all, and which will all receive a visit before the end of the month.   

We are undaunted, for this is not a task but a special privilege, the judges invited in to see each project and to meet the teams who are justly proud and enthusiastic for what they have achieved.  We set off early on the first of our visit days and are greeted by cheery summer weather which does wonders for the buildings and the landscapes as they seem to drink in the sun.  Wearing their Sunday best, they look splendid against the azure skies, and we reach for our cameras to try to capture the moment.   We move through a carefully crafted and timetabled script created by the OPT team which can get us from place to place on time.  As we move to our intended meeting places we pass through quadrangle and garden, meadow and walks so that we cannot fail to see and sense what a glorious and green place Oxford is.  It is not just with its architecture that Oxford can tell a complete history from medieval to modern, but also through its gardens.  Indeed, we see some of the very latest ideas at the projects themselves, where in an age of sustainability and climate change, of calm and wellbeing, interesting new planting ideas have been introduced into the gardens and landscapes with unusual and different plants and planting, some never seen before in a college setting.   Eye-catching and provocative, they reflect the changing history of their places, and in some cases seem to combine the built and the natural, so that the two have become as one, nature outside and in.  I feel in awe of the gardeners who tend the quads and gardens of old to such perfection and will now embrace the new ideas, so seamlessly.   As we go about, we stop for a much-needed coffee break in Broad Street.  Here we are surrounded by the meadow flowers and lawns in the temporary landscape at the western end of the street which has been entered for a Temporary Projects Award this year.   

In a week or two the Awards visits and the judging will be over, ready for the Awards evening in the Autumn.   With little time to catch breathe, the OPT team will then move on to hone our evolving plans for this year’s Oxford Open Doors on 11/12 September.  We are looking for the right way to welcome you back into some of our wonderful buildings across the University, Colleges and City, bringing some of our best heritage old and new to you, perhaps encouraging some of those who have entered for the Awards to open their newer doors as well.  Reflecting on the past few weeks, I feel inspired to bring in a few more gardens, old and new, and share something of their history and heritage, and of the people who tend them so expertly.  In the words of the poet Matthew Arnold and with thanks to The Encyclopedia of Oxford ‘Beautiful City! So venerable, so lovely, … spreading her gardens to the moonlight …’.  See you in September at Oxford Open Doors.

 

Debbie