Spring garden update

03 April 2023

Just a quick update on the fritillaries, which I’m sure you’ve noted… the Water Meadow has now begun to fill up over the Easter weekend and the previously isolated populations of the Fritillaria meleagris  have begun closing the gaps between them. Swathes of the nodding bell-shaped flower heads in purple and white can be clearly seen across most of the meadow, the stems hugging the ground as if hiding amongst the emerging meadow.  

We had our heads down braced against the cold and rain… but all was not so bleak as we started the year at Magdalen. Spirits were soon lifted with the emergence of snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) , winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis), Dutch crocuses, primroses (Primula acaulis), and hellebores.

Snowdrops on Addison’s Walk

These were swiftly joined by the squills seen all over College, along Addison’s Walk, and into the Fellows’ Garden. A familiar site around Oxford, these include Scilla siberica, Scilla luciliae  glory of the snow (syn/aka/sect Chionodoxa luciliae), and  S.bifolia  the Alpine squill. These were partnered by the daffodils including the wild daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus and the poet’s narcissus (N. poeticus).

Winter aconites

Carpets of blue and white anemones still adorn the Fellows’ Garden and Addison’s, whilst the dog’s tooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis) are dotted amongst the first of the snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris). The fritillaries have been flowering for the last couple of weeks, uniting the landscape as they so beautifully do. They can also been seen in numbers on the low banks of the Water Meadow. If you have a mind, you may spot the first stems of the fritillaries rising leaf by leaf throughout the Water Meadow seemingly poised, dare I suggest, for a promising crescendo providing the geese do not have other ideas! Viewed from west of Addison’s Walk one or two are seen flowering beneath the black walnut (Juglans nigra) The meadow will not be in full bloom for a week or so yet, however, they are quick to flower once the water recedes and the warmth falls upon them.

Dog’s tooth violet
Fritillaries in the Water Meadow

Iris reticulata, all too briefly seen in pots, have just gone over to allow the tulips to ready themselves for their spring flowering, and the herbaceous borders are well underway to begin their rise to dominance.

Tulips outside the the Grammar Hall

Around the site, the Gardens Team has been busy pruning and training wisterias, roses, and hydrangeas to maximise their flowering potential and has begun lawn care for the demands of the new season ahead.

Shrubs that you may have caught the heady scent of well before locating its origin may likely have been the yellow, honeyed-scented flowers of the paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) or the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ and Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ by The Grove Buildings.

Paper bush by The Grove Buildings

Not uncommon, but often understated, are the viburnums including the Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Viburnum carlesii, and Viburnum ferrari. Visual stimuli aside from the flash of the resident kingfishers are gained from amongst others the Mahonia Japonica and Japanese quinces (Chaenomeles japonica) to be found trained upon the external walls outside The Cloisters .

Please respect the gardens and grounds when you visit and we will welcome you with open arms. I am sure you, as do we appreciate that the landscape is here for all to enjoy.  

Best wishes,
The Gardens Team