Paradise Lost and Restored

400 years of Garden Design in Oxfordshire

The History of Garden Design through the lens of the Oxford Botanic Garden

3 February 2021

Zoom lecture at  5 pm

The history of English garden design can be told in different ways, but rarely can it be told “through the lens” of one garden.  The Oxford Botanic Garden was founded at the beginning of the 17th century and its design bears all the hallmarks of 17th century design.  Through the next 400 years successive Horti Praefecti (head gardeners) changed the features reflecting the art of gardening, and very occasionally the science of botany.   This talk looks at how the art of gardening has changed, or perhaps has not, in four centuries in Oxfordshire and how the Oxford Botanic Garden now reflects garden design at the beginning of the 21st century.  The title of the talk refers to the fact that one of the motivations for garden design remains the desire to create paradise on Earth.  The meaning of paradise may now be less rooted in the Biblical account of the rise and fall of man, but there is still a clear vision of what we would like the world to resemble.  


Since 1986 I have given 1,500 public lectures. This was originally part of my work as director of the Oxford University Botanic Garden from 1988 to 2014. Botanic gardens are often described as living museums, and garden curators lecture about them in the same way as museum curators talk about their collections. Since 2014 I have been a college lecturer and tutor at Somerville College Oxford. Gardens are often thought of a place where science and art meet on equal terms. My lectures investigate this relationship