14. Tree Quad

Photo: Isobel Holling

The Tree Quad is located at the junction of two fields on the land of the previous owner, Professor Haldane, who had built and owned the house ‘Cherwell’ here. The larger mature trees in the quad were preserved from his small holding and were originally on the field boundaries. The sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and two Norway maples (Acer platanoides) are remarkable survivals. The construction of the buildings that form the quadrangle are extremely close to the trees which were already becoming mature.

Two College Fellows, Tom Edwardson from the Department of Forestry (now part of Plant Sciences), and Ken Burras who was Superintendent of the University Botanic Garden advised the College to retain as many mature trees on the site as possible. This has given the whole of the College site a much greater feeling of maturity than it would otherwise have had, no more so than in the Tree Quad. Under today’s planning regulations construction work on this scale so close trees at this point in their maturity would not be permitted. However, Tom and Ken knew from experience that there was a strong likelihood that the trees would survive (see the pictures below of the tree quad under construction). We have only recently removed the Norway Maple in the north east corner of the quad as it had become diseased but it has contributed to the scene for more than 50 years.

Photo: Wolfson College Archives

The sycamore has developed into a fine specimen, which makes a huge contribution to the quad and the surrounding area. The other trees were introduced after the quad was completed. The Sargent cherry (Prunus sargentii) planted in 1976 is now fully mature. It produces pink flowers in spring and it reliably produces bright red leaves in October.

The paper bark maple (Acer griseum) was planted in 1986 for its interesting bark and beautiful butter yellow autumn leaf colour; it is only semi-mature.

Photo: George Mather

Bulbs are planted within the grass. They have naturalised and spread very successfully in the four decades since they were planted. A truly sustainable planting, only a relatively small number were planted but they have spread naturally by seed and vegetatively so that there are now thousands of flowers, producing the most delightful pools of colour during the spring and autumn. Crocus tommasinianus forms a large purple pool in the dark winter days of late February. Crocus kotschyanus, which produces delicate lilac flowers at the south end of the quad during October, has formed an unusually large population for this species, which is normally slow to develop; they are rarely seen grown en masse in gardens.

Walter Sawyer and Tim Hitchens