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St Hugh’s Gardens in Winter by Head Gardener, Ed Reid


It seems strange to be writing this article in what feels like the first proper winter we’ve had in Oxford for a long time with temperatures only just getting over zero degrees – completely the opposite to the scorching summer we had in 2022! But this is actually how things should be at this time of year, and a good frost is a great way of killing pests and diseases.

The gardens did receive quite a battering during the summer heatwave, made even worse by the hose pipe ban, so things like the planting and particularly the lawns became extremely parched.

Once we got into September, we firstly scarified out the dead grass followed by spiking (to allow aeration), and then overseeded all the lawns and topped them off with a dose of autumn fertilizer. The lawns are slowly returning to their former glory, but we will need to repeat the procedure in spring.

Although the majority of the shrubs and trees have survived, we did lose some of the planting around the Dickson Poon Building which has provided a perfect opportunity to change up some of the planting in the area. We have removed some of the Miscanthus sinensis (Yakushima dwarf) and planted a mixture of grasses such as Hakonechloa, Stipa gigantica and Pennisetum. Also in the mix is some herbaceous plants such as Phlox, Kniphofia and Crocosmia in an effort to provide a prairie style planting scheme which will hopefully create a rich tapestry of height and texture, adding interest throughout the year.

During the start of Michaelmas term we welcomed our new gardener Adrian Lawrence-Shepley to the team. Adrian had recently been working at the Cutteslowe Park Community Project – a charity based incentive helping to teach horticulture to young adults with learning difficulties. He started off his career in gardening with a placement at the Oxford Botanic Gardens, and attended Pershore College attaining an HNC level 5 in organic gardening. I have worked with Adrian previously at both Trinity and Magdalen Colleges and I know he will add a wealth of experience to the team and College gardens – he has already proven to be a great asset to our team. Adrian studied philosophy at Warwick University and is interested in the philosophy of gardening.