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Sweet smelling roses

 

Rose-14The beauty of a rose can -with a bit of luck- be captured with a camera. Unfortunately, a photo can’t convey its sweet smell. But maybe you can imagine their scent looking at these pictures. These shots are from the Oxford Botanic Garden, and one or two from the Orto Botanico di Padova.

 

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Maybe you’re familiar with Cicely Mary Barkers painting that accompanies the poem of the Rose Fairy. If not, you’ll find it here. I bought the print years ago, had it framed and still admire it. The poem is lovely as well:

Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose —
Buds that open to disclose
Fold on fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or red that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What delight
To be Fairy of the Rose!

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Plants, animals, and scientists set in stone

As with the Natural History Museum in London, I like the building of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History just as much as the collections it contains. There is so much to be seen on the stonework: squirrels eating acorns, carved tulips, pineapples, irises, orchids, meat-eating plants, ferns unfurling, birds and a frog hiding between leaves, and a fair number of plants and animals I don’t recognise.

Not only are the stone pillars adorned with carvings of animals and plants, the iron pillars are beautifully decorated with leaves and branches as well. Whale skeletons seem to swim in this sea of pillars.

Statues of eminent men of science stand guard in the court on the ground floor.

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All Souls College

All Souls College, or ‘College of the souls of all the faithful departed’ as it is formally called, was planned and built in the 1430s. It received its foundation charter in 1438.

The Fellows of the College, next to their scholarly work, had the obligation to pray in chapel for the souls of the founders, of those who had fallen in the long wars with France (at the time not being prosecuted with much vigour), and of ‘all the faithful departed’.

The antechapel has beautiful stained glass windows, some dating from the fifteenth century. The niches behind the altar contain statues of saints, bishops, and monarchs. In the centre are a Crucifixion scene, and a Last Judgement, high up under the roof. The original fifteenth-century statues were destroyed in Reformation. They were replaced with these Gothic imitations in the nineteenth century. Gilded wooden angels adorn the ends of the roof beams.

 

 

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The North Quadrangle, facing Radcliffe Square, is dominated by its iconic twin towers.

 

 

 

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The Codrington Library contains about 185,000 volumes, about a third of which were printed before 1800.

 

 

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Pink and purple poppies

On an earlier visit to the Botanic Garden in Oxford, I found mainly poppies of the ‘Ladybird’ variety. About a week later, there were still a lot of Ladybirds around. But pink, lilac and dark purple poppies were now towering over them. As before, bees were around as well. Flying from flower to flower to gather food.

 

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True tulip tree

Last week, I spotted a tree with white, tulip-like flowers in the Botanic Garden in Oxford. This weekend I discovered they have a true tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) as well. The name doesn’t give it away, but it belongs to the magnolia family.

The pale green buds and the flowers, light green with a bit of orange, are not always easy to spot between the leaves.

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Tulip-like magnolia

White tulip-like flowers sheltered by large green leaves. What type of tree is this?, I wondered. I had once seen a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and this one evidently a different type of tree.

After a while, I spotted the sign: Magnolia sieboldii subsp. sinensis. Chinese magnolia in common English.

One interesting detail: the tulip tree belongs to the magnolia family as well.

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Tree full of hankies

Last week, in the Oxford Botanical Garden I came across a tree that seemed to be surrounded by used white handkerchiefs or tissues. Looking up, I found that the little white sheets had actually fallen from the tree.

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A sign by the tree identified it as a Davidia involucrata. It originates from China and is commonly known as handkerchief tree, dove tree and ghost tree.

It is a lovely sight, to see the bracts fluttering in the wind like white doves or pinched handkerchiefs.

 

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Bright poppies

In the Botanic Garden in Oxford, a collection of red poppies with black dots reminded me of ladybirds. Seen from above, my husband associated them with ballerinas in a tutu.

One thing is for certain: this bumblebee liked them as well.

Lots of buds, so more poppies to come…

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Would the orange poppies have anything to do with the Dutch monarchy?

 

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Some large-leaved bright red papavers

And the occasional white poppy

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Oxford pub signs

In Britain the naming of inns and pubs became common by the 12th century, according to Historic UK. With the names came the famous pub signs. A few examples from Oxford.

The Eagle and Child in St Giles is the pub where the literary discussion group the Inklings used to meet. Among its members were the famous authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They nicknamed the pub ‘The Bird and Baby’.

 

The Lamb & Flag, opposite The Eagle and Child, is owned by St John’s college. The name of the pub refers to the symbol of Christ as the victorious Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), carrying a banner with a cross. The Lamb of God is also a symbol of St John the Baptist, and so emblematic of the college’s ownership.

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The Turf Tavern is one of the most popular pubs in Oxford, and yet one of the most difficult to find – stand under the Bridge of Sighs and you’ll see the sign! Public figures such as Tony Blair, C.S. Lewis, Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher dined or drank at the tavern, as well as the cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies. The Turf is old: its foundations and use as a malt house and drinking tavern date back to 1381.

The Rusty Bicycle is an old pub with a fairly new name. It’s a popular place to meet outside the city center, on the corner of Magdalen Road and Hurst Street. The bike on the wall needs more time to weather and become truly rusty.

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The Mad Hatter, on the corner of Iffley Road and Circus Street, is a place of English eccentricity – according to it’s webpage. Google maps identifies it as a quirky cocktail bar with speakeasy vibe. It’s very clear though that in a previous life, the pub used to go by the name of The Cricketer’s Arms.