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New Borders in an Old Garden


By AndrewR


Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest in the country, dating back to 1621, but they are not afraid of introducing new features. In 2011, a new area, the Merton Borders, was created.

A section of the garden near the river, which flows past the garden and sometimes overflows into it during the winter months, had been cleared three years earlier and was replanted in a more modern style. Sand was spread over the area and incorporated into the soil to provide extra drainage, and seeds of plants from three different parts of the world were sown. The scheme also had a sub theme about climate change and the plants we may be growing more of in the future.

One section contained plants from the North American prairies (such as echinaceas, agastache and penstemons), Eurasia (dianthus carthusianorum, salvia nemorosa and stipa gigantea), and South Africa (agapanthus, diascias and kniphofias). The full list of plants used can be found at

For the first couple of years, the area looked like a weed patch, but since then has grown and matured. These photos were taken yesterday afternoon.

While some plants from the original list seem to have disappeared, others are obviously very much at home. Eryngium planum has become a ‘thug’ and has to be deadheaded, and there seemed to be a lot of pink mallow and ladies bedstraw. But the area is proving very popular with visitors and shows what we all might be growing in a few years’ time.

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Lovely area, super plants, the Mallow must be loved by the bees and I must admit to a very soft spot for Ladies bedstraw, the food plant of the Bee Hawk-moth, though until now I didn't realise that it was the same family as Cleavers/Goose-grass. I suppose it explains the rampant behaviour of it.

5 Jul, 2017


What a super area. Some big plants there now. Do the Red Hot Pokers remind you of your trip to South Africa, I think those pictures look fantastic.

6 Jul, 2017


Andrew, have you seen the article on this planting in the July edition of 'The Garden' ? Very interesting to read that birds, bees and butterflies also love the borders.

6 Jul, 2017


Sue - yes, although we didn't see these particular species.

Shirley - yes, I saw the article. I get to Oxford once or twice a year, so it's interesting to see these borders developing. The 'rampant' Eurasian self-sowers are now colonising the American and South African areas as well so it will be interesting to see how they develop and if any attempt is made to keep the plantings separate.

6 Jul, 2017


What beautuful planting the areas look great. Shame Erynguim Planum has become a thug I am glad now mine never took.

Climate change is rubbish Andrew its a natural cycle even Nigel Lawson has had his special team on it probing its a natural occurance even on here says we have 30 years of earmth and 30 yesrs of cold its Nasa fiddling the data.

6 Jul, 2017


I can see why they are popular, it looks stunning. I agree with you Thrupennybit, that this is all just a natural occurance in our climates.

6 Jul, 2017


Thank you Lisam.

6 Jul, 2017


fantastic blog Andrew and this is on my bucket list to visit.

climate change has always been a natural phenomenon but the increase in carbon emissions is exacerbating the problem.

There are excellent weather records over the last 50yrs[nothing to do with nasa] that show Britain is warming. I'm waiting for the next cooling stage I'm too hot :o)

7 Jul, 2017


This is lovely. My first thought was what a haven it must be for wildlife with all the various flowers and seeds.

Can't agree with you over climate change 3d. I don't know enough about the science to take sides or quote data but the retreat of the ice has not happened like this in the past hundred years. Polar bears are in trouble. The arctic region is now at its warmest for 40,000 years - rather more than 30. The 30year cycles are much smaller swings.

I think you'll find its the IPCC that are quoting figures, not NASA.

I would love you to be right but I don't think you are.
Andrew will these plants survive OK when the river floods again?

7 Jul, 2017


Stera - as long as the plants are only under water for about a week, they ought to survive. Anything over two weeks may be a problem though.

8 Jul, 2017


Fingers crossed then!

8 Jul, 2017


Gorgeous area - thanks for sharing, Andrew.

Well said Stera . . . agree with you, and the Arctic ice is a real worry.

23 Jul, 2017

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