Botanic Garden Ann Gray

Botanic Garden


Since its opening in 1846, Cambridge University Botanic Garden has been an inspiration for gardeners, an exciting introduction to the natural world for families and a refreshing oasis for all our visitors.

The heritage-listed Garden was the vision of John Henslow, mentor to Charles Darwin, and has been designed for both year-round interest and seasonal inspiration so, whenever you visit, you will find plants to intrigue, enchant and inspire.  Landscape highlights include the Winter Garden, the richly-fragranced Scented Garden, the buzzing Bee Borders, the Rock Garden displaying alpine forms from the mountain ranges of every continent, and the unique Systematic Beds.  The Glasshouse displays range from the architectural cacti or arid lands to flamboyant, tropical rainforests.

The Garden’s plant collection of over 8000 species, including nine National Collections, is displayed over the 40 acre site in a seamless patchwork of gardens and plantings that together compose a stunning landscape.  The application, like a thick mulch, of the expert knowledge, skill, vision and dedication of generations of Botanic Garden staff shines through in the quality of the design and high standards of maintenance.

Image: Winter Garden

The Winter Garden is the original masterclass in how to bring together colour, flower, texture and fragrance to create a planting that invigorates all the senses, even in the darkest months.  The level site was excavated to create a shallow valley in which scents collect and intensify, and is open to the south to allow the low winter light to flood in and dance across the plantings.

Ann Gray


Ann Gray has an MA in Creative writing from the University of Plymouth. A poet and editor, her collections include At The Gate (Headland, 2008), The Man I Was Promised (Headland, 2004), Painting Skin (Fatchance Press, 1995). Her poems have been selected for the Forward Prize Anthology in 1995 and 2008, and she was commended for the National Poetry Competition, 2010  She has been a guest reader on  Arvon courses and a tutor at Ty Newydd. Ann Gray grew up in Cambridge, educated at the Perse, she now lives and works in Cornwall where she has a care home for people with dementia, in a 3 acre setting of therapeutic gardens and orchards.

Ann Gray


Pressing Beauty Ann Gray


We're pressing flowers. Beth tightens screws

until the buttercup is bleeding yellow. I want

her to have the names, the magic that starts:

Archangel, Bugle, Corncockle, Mayweed,

Toadflax to Wolf's Bane, the count of petals,

where we found them, the month and weather -

first buttercup, in the wind and rain, long field,

February, Cornwall.  Bees like yellow. We draw

a bee. Dried stalks of things fall out of all my books:

Alhambra, Grenada, a dark rose, its scent long gone,

and a note that says -  June, hot and thirsty, golden fish

in a long pond, the moon falls as stars through the ceilings.

Water Crowfoot, Goats Rue, Bedstraw. Lady's Smock,

vanilla touched with mauve, lilac – Churchbridge,

the field is full of them, a pale lake pulling at the throat

of May.  Blackthorn.That page is torn. Dogrose, a smear

of blood.   July - Foxglove, fat and speckled, badly

squashed. Gorse, no cloying smell but the colour

of sun blazing. A grandmother should have secrets,

share them. We take two 2lb weights that sit beside

my scales, talk of patience, a space of time, how they'll

change, how we'll have to close our eyes to see them,

because this isn't science. We're pressing beauty.


Cambridge University Herbarium

Botanic Garden


Archived posts

At the Herbarium

22nd February 2013 | 0 Comment(s) | Botanic Garden

Underground at the Botanic Garden is a very select space, storing treasures collected from around the world for over 300 years. The Herbarium is housed in the Sainsbury Laboratory and was moved from Plant Sciences last year after being frozen to -40°C. This is the first time the whole collection has been under one roof. Darwin’s collection of plant specimens, assembled on his Beagle voyage, are housed here. These include certain now world extinct species. Some of the Herbarium collection of John Lindley (1799 – 1865), famous English botanist, gardener and orchidologist, is also kept here still in its original folders soot blackened from his west London home. Kew has his orchid collection.


It is a fascinating space. It still accommodates the original, worn chair used by Professor Charles Babbington (1861) Henslow’s successor as Professor of Botany at Cambridge, juxtaposed with state of the art work benches and storage spaces with temperature control. Ann Gray and I spent the morning exploring this space. Finally we were taken to see Suzanna Heron’s wonderful, carved wall which she named Henslow’s walk. The vast carved wall imitating some of the elegant leaf shapes and stem angles from Henslow’s collected herbarium sheets.

Judy Fox, Education officer at the Botanic Garden.

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