Wadham College Gardens

Date Published: 09.08.2022

Sustainability Spotlight

Wadham’s Head Gardener, Andrew Little, is one of the College’s most longstanding staff members, having worked on its grounds for 38 years. He and new Gardens Team recruits, Sharon and Dan, keep the grounds looking beautiful, while also working hard to reduce the environmental impact of maintaining them.

Wadham’s extensive grounds are considered to have the third most unusual tree collections in Oxford after the Botanical Gardens and the University Parks. The trees include native species as well as those from far-flung shores, with a strong Japanese element. Rare ‘fossil’ trees such as the Monkey Puzzle and Ginkgo, as well as Japanese Maple, Cryptomeria, or Japanese Cedar tree, Brewers Spruce, Purple Beech, Horse Chestnut, Scots Pine, Mulberry, Redwood, Sycamore, Weeping Silver Lime, Apple, and one of the few gutta-percha trees in the UK can all be found here. There are also three varieties of Cedar trees: the Himalayan Cedar; Cedar of Lebanon; and the Atlas Cedar from north Africa. The Fellows’ and Cloister gardens are also home to a range of such native shrubs as roses and verburnum, and more exotic ones, including hibiscus. All require a considerable amount of compost to keep them thriving.

Having had varied uses in the past, Love Lane, which runs from the back of the College to South Park Road, is now where the College’s compost is made in a three-year cycle as part of our mission to reuse and reduce waste as much as possible. Seventy wheelbarrows of compost are needed for the whole site. Andrew, Sharon and Dan use all the organic waste they can to produce it, including lawn mowings, prunings, and waste food from the kitchens.

The gardens also provide food for the kitchens, including black hamburg grapes from the Vine House. At 200 years old, the vine is said to be the oldest in Oxfordshire. The grapes are too sweet for wine but are used for some of the College’s desserts, as are some of the mulberries and apples.

Andrew has cut back on use of chemicals in the garden as much as possible and he makes very limited use of pesticides. Love Lane and some areas in the Fellows’ private garden are left to their own devices to grow naturally and encourage insect and bird life. When one area of the Fellows’ Garden became infected with honey fungus, Andrew planted Phyllostachys, a Chinese bamboo that is resistant to it and that has been a very successful addition to the gardens without use of chemicals.

By developing the gardens, Andrew and the team are bringing together the old and the new, honouring Wadham’s past while looking to the future. The oldest tree in the College grounds is the American Tulip Tree, which was planted in 1701. The old cow shed that used to house the Warden’s cow still stands and is used now for the team’s equipment. The gateway to the nursery area is believed to have been part of the Augustan Friary that originally stood on the site before it was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries 1536 – 1540. Much newer additions are the White Garden, with scented white roses, jasmine, clematis and an Ash tree, and the Barbara Naylor Garden on the Graduate Centre Roof, which has been planted with jasmine, honeysuckle, lavender, and buddleias to attract and support communities of insects.

We look forward to enjoying the beautiful gardens throughout the summer and beyond. Many thanks to Andrew and the team for all their work and their commitment to reducing our impact on the environment.

Andrew Little, Head Gardener, with Phyllostachys, a Chinese bamboo, in Wadham College gardens.

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