Student Spotlight
Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: The importance of the Botanic Garden

This year, the Botanic Garden and Arboretum celebrate 400 years, but it’s more than a tourist attraction; for many of our students it’s a haven of calm and even a place to do their research. We spoke to 3rd year biology student Georges Greiff, who is studying at St Hilda’s, about why the Botanic Garden has been such an important part of his life at Oxford.

“I study biology, and I’m particularly interested in plant sciences, specifically seedless plants like mosses and ferns. There are only a few places with the variety that the Botanic Garden offers and I can name most species in the Garden. Oxford is a busy city and there are very few places that offer a somewhere pleasant and quiet place to go. For me, the Botanic Garden is a great alternative to the much busier Christ Church Meadow; during COVID-19 it’s felt like a quiet place with a COVID-safe atmosphere, whereas all the parks have been filled with people.

When I first started my course, we walked around the Garden as part of our research. In First Year, I did my project on fungal parasites of plants with help from Dr Chris Thorogood, the Deputy Director of the Botanic Garden and Arboretum and Head of Science. It’s great that we have those opportunities while studying here. While I enjoyed that work, I haven’t done any more analysis on the Garden, now I see it more as a place to look and relax.

The British weather can be a limiting factor and I try to keep the Garden separate from my work. I go to the library for studying, my bedroom is for sleeping and to the Garden to chill out. My college doesn’t have extensive grounds like some of the others, and while for some of my peers the University Parks are a place to relax, the Garden feels less claustrophobic, with fewer people. It’s a space that’s green and open. Coming from the Isle of Wight, I’m used to open spaces and the University Parks is a great space, but the Garden has more diversity of plant species, so it’s a much more interesting space for me.

It’s been strange not having access to Oxford over the last few months and adapting to the idea of home being a place to study rather than rest.

I’m currently in Oxford about to write finals in 5th week. It’s great to be back – though I do suffer from quite bad hayfever so I haven’t gone to the Gardens as much as I normally would! In September I’ll be moving to Bristol to start a PhD on plant developmental genetics.”

Georges Greiff

Students of the University can visit the Botanic Garden and Arboretum for free without pre-booking. Find out more on the website