Fitzwilliam College Gardens are a mixture of modern, naturalistic and traditional planting, tended by a five-strong gardening team.
Storey’s Way entrance and Gatehouse Court The College entrance is flanked by ‘living barbed wire’, Colletia cruciata. In summer the beds come alive with devil’s tobacco and red hot poker. Inside the Court, Primula and Dicentra nestle among ferns. In autumn, Cyclamen flower under the copper beech.
Best seen from the bridge, this ‘planted moat’ uses fountain grass and blue Agapanthus ‘Midnight Star’ to mimic water. Plum-coloured Pittosporum ‘reflects’ the purple crown of the copper beech.
Lime Tree Avenue The old path is lined by century-old limes. In spring, grassy banks erupt with squills, glory of the snow (Chionodoxa luciliae), snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) and wild daffodils.
Wilson Court A summer border lies hidden behind Wilson Court, along the boundary with Murray Edwards College. Euphorbia mellifera lines the path towards Gatehouse Court and the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sumi-nagashi’) is a point of focus in front of Y staircase.
‘The First Undergraduate’
Old box trees and a huge oak shade this bronze by Christopher Marvell, commissioned for the College’s 125th anniversary. In spring, the ground is covered by woodland perennials and hellebores. The canopy is of limes, yews, false acacias and horse chestnut.
The plane tree (Platanus hispanicus) between the Chapel and The Grove is over 200 years old. In Edwardian photographs the tree is just as large. The climbing rose and snail-shaped topiaries by the veranda are newer additions. The sundial parterre contains cottage-style planting of English sage and heliotrope. The Acer ‘Drummondii’ on the Copse border was planted by the King and Queen of Spain.
Olisa Library planting
Head Gardener Steve Kidger and his team have created an entirely new landscape around the Olisa Library. Rudbeckia and pampas grass follow the tower’s curve. The triangular bed holds wedding cake trees (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’), Echinacea for summer colour and tussock grass for winter structure. Behind the library a meadow attracts wildlife and insects, and is planted with native trees including Scots pine. A Blue Tit has already adopted the nest box on the walnut tree.
In 1883, Emma Darwin wrote “I never saw such a display of primroses ... especially under each of the beech trees; they were like a carpet”. The beeches still stand; new planting includes wood-rush (Luzula sylvatica) and Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. The lawn holds English and North American oaks, and is edged by Gypsophila and pink bell-shaped buds of beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis).
Outside N staircase is a Ginkgo biloba, a primeval species 270 million years old.
Blocks of wildflowers punctuated by spring bulbs boost biodiversity, attracting pollinators and wildlife into the garden as well as adding a splash of early summer colour. The 'potager' with its mix of vegetables and flowering plants, demonstrates the ability of a garden to be both productive and ornamental.