The large bank to the right of the Entrance was created to screen the adjacent buildings from view. Among the mature trees which include, birches, eucalyptus and a Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), a range of deciduous and evergreen shrubs, perennials and bulbs have been planted to provide interest throughout the year. In early spring daffodils and brunneras are a highlight, while three flowering cherries and a magnolia can be admired here during April and May. An area in the vicinity of a tall narrow leaved ash (Fraxinus angustifolia) and two strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) has been planted with a number of shrubs and perennials with scented flowers such as winter flowering honeysuckle, philadelphus, skimmia and sarcococca and is now known as the Fragrant Garden.
The Winter Border on the left, past the Caucasian Wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), contains plants that flower between November and March. Many of the shrubs and herbaceous plants have evergreen foliage, colourful bark or an attractive structure and some are scented or have persistent fruits. Shrubs include winter flowering honeysuckle, cultivars of Euonymus fortunei, and corkscrew hazel. Others like the dogwoods and willows are coppiced regularly.
The Green Border, which is opposite the Winter Garden, has large Persian ironwoods (Parrotia persica) on one end and Malus sargentii on the other. Many of the plants were selected to show diversity of foliage texture and colour throughout the year. They include bamboo, evergreen viburnum and aucubas as well as perennials such as bergenias, euphorbias, hemerocallis, hostas, penstemons and persicaria. Hydrangeas add colour in late summer and early autumn.
The Crab Apple Orchard, to the left of the path, contains a collection of ornamental crab-apples and includes cultivars and species with blossom ranging from white to deep pink. The spring blossom is followed by good autumn foliage and fruits. This collection was the first gift to the garden from the Friends of the Harris Garden. Beneath the trees, snowdrops, striped squill, crocus, narcissus and snake’s head fritillary together with wild flowers such as cowslips and ox-eye daisies provide a delightful tapestry from January to early summer.
The large Mixed Border, which is opposite the Turkey Oaks is traditional in style and was planted in 1993 with a collection of shrub roses, both old and modern, many of which are scented. A wide range of interesting herbaceous perennials, bulbs and occasional annuals are mixed among the roses and provide a succession of plants of different colours, heights and texture from spring through summer into autumn. These include phlox, peonies, poppies, day lilies, dahlias, heleniums and many others. Height is given to the border by a large evergreen viburnum and a Magnolia grandiflora that produces large cup shaped creamy-white flowers in the summer.
In 1995 the Friends bought a new liner for the Pond and the opportunity was taken to re-shape and enlarge it in order to increase the water surface. Willows provide a backdrop here while Gunneras are a notable feature in summer with foxgloves and wild flowers in bloom along the path. A huge Caucasian alder (Alnus subcordata), a champion tree, can also be found in this area as well as a Pin Oak (Quercus palustris) and two swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum).
The pond is connected to the Stream which flows through a series of small pools. Water is moved to the head of the stream from the pond using a circulatory pump and the running water adds an exciting dimension to the garden.
This feature was financed by the Friends to mark the millennium in 2000. Moisture loving plants grow along the banks of the stream. In the spring different species of primula are in flower as well as yellow flag iris. Later in the season astilbes, hostas, ferns and foxgloves can be seen and a large cistus adds height to the planting.
On the left, past the pond and the Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), a crescent shaped path leads through a small garden known as the Autumn Border. Recently the large shrubs in this area have been pruned to rejuvenate them and give more space to the Japanese acers. There is a large selection of shrubs here and flowering starts in the spring with the Japanese cherries. The young shoots of photinias and acers provide interest before their foliage matures. Most of these plants also have good autumn colour. In late summer and autumn, a selection of herbaceous perennials, including asters, sedums, anemones and cyclamen give shades of red, pink, purple and yellow mixed in with ornamental grasses.
The All Seasons Border has been recently planted and is being developed to provide all year interest. Close by is the Walled Garden which is used as a University teaching and research resource and is usually only open on charity days.
In the centre of the garden are three blocks of mainly native trees planted in 1989/90 in order that students of horticulture could study the establishment of trees with woodland flora beneath. Species include oak, ash, wild cherry, birch, Scots pine, European larch, hawthorn, field maple, hazel and holly. The trees now make a fine contribution to the structure of the garden. The area is managed in order to produce a variety of habitats for wild flowers, butterflies and other wildlife. Also in the centre of the garden is a recently planted Lime Tree Avenue (Tillia x europaea).
Nearby, is the Orchard consisting of different cultivars of the domestic apple (Malus domestica) and pear (Pyrus communis). All the trees have labels displaying the name of the cultivar and the root stock that each tree is grafted onto. There are also two apple hedges.
Another feature in the centre of the garden is the Flower Meadow of approximately one hectare which gives the garden a sense of space and has been sown with mainly native wild flowers. In 2010 around 50000 bulbs were planted here which give a mass of colour from April to June provided by daffodils followed by camassia and alliums nearer the stream. The meadow is mown late in the year to allow the plants to seed and the cut grass is removed to keep nutrient levels low in the soil. There are other trees in this area whose shapes add interest to the vista in winter.
The Cherry Bowl was planted in 1995. The collection of Japanese flowering cherries has been selected to demonstrate the range of flower variation as well as autumn colour. They are arranged around a circular clearing under planted with bulbs and wild flowers.
The Conifer Circle consists of a collection of upright growing cultivars of Lawson’s cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) and other conifers which were planted in 2002. Their foliage ranges in colour from dark green to golden to bright green to blue grey around the circle.
The Formal Garden Area consists of a number of garden rooms and borders of various sizes which are partly enclosed by hedges of beech and yew. It is divided into five main areas:-
The Miller Border consists of four rectangular beds separated by grass paths which were replanted in autumn 2010 with 20 different herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. They now make a major impact in this area of the garden, particularly in late summer and autumn. As the season progresses a mass of colour, from yellows to pinks, whites and oranges from heleniums, sunflowers, rudbeckias, agastache, amsonias and tall grasses, delights the eye. In the winter months the seed heads prove attractive to visitors and birds.
The Golden Border backs onto the Miller Border. It is planted mainly with shrubs with variegated foliage or those with different shades of yellow, gold, or copper leaves such as Sambucus racemosa ‘Aurea’ and Lonicers nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, interspersed with others such as Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Purpureus’ which have green leaves and blend in well. Conifers such as golden Scots pine and Chamaecyparis thyoides help make the border attractive and bright under the grey skies of winter.
The Prairie Garden was sown with a seed mix of short, medium and tall wild flowers and grasses, in a ratio of roughly 3:1, purchased from a specialist in the USA. A particular sand mulch was used which was developed by Professor James Hitchmough, whose recent achievements include the planting at the Olympic park in London. This habitat gives a long flowering period from plants loved by bees and other beneficial insects. Black-eyed Susan, prairie sage, compass plant, blue sky asters, echinaceas and wild bergamot give a fine show from August to September.
The Meteor Garden is enclosed by clipped and shaped hedges. It consists of four crescent shaped beds surrounding a central bed in the middle of which, on a plinth, is a wooden sculpture, “The Meteor”, made by local sculptor Jon Roberts. This is complimented by spiky grey-blue oat grass (Helicotrichon) which links well with the sculpture. The planting consists of white phlox, lychnis, echinacea and Crambe cordifolia with roses adding height to the planting. Tulips and narcissi add interest in the spring.
At the entrance to the Red Border is a handkerchief tree (Davida involucrata) and nearby an unusual silky camellia (Stewartia malacodendron). The Red Border has three sections. The first bed in the shade of a Lucombe oak has plants such as red bamboo, burgundy flowered hydrangeas, Heuchera ‘Winter Red’, Bergenia ‘Ruby Glow’ and Cytisus ‘Boskoop Ruby’, together with tall lilies. In the middle bed are a wide range of red perennials such as Dahlia ‘Edwin’s Sunset’ Phlox paniculata ‘Starfire’, hylotelephiums (sedum), penstemons, antirrhinums and ornamental grasses including Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica). The third part of the border has a Red Hawthorn (Craetaegus laevigata ‘Paul’s Scarlet’) Weigela ‘Red Prince’ and Salvia ‘Hot Lips’. Red alliums and hyacinths have recently been added to the beds.
Opposite the Red Border is a Hardy Fuchsia collection which is being developed to show off a range of hardy fuchsias including those developed by local hybridist John Wright such as Whiteknights Pearl, Whiteknights Amethyst, Whiteknights Glister and some of his Lechslade series such as Lechslade Magician.
The Jungle Garden, adjacent to Pepper Lane, has been established in order to create the impression of walking through a tropical garden but using mainly frost tolerant plants. The mature trees already established here, including many different varieties of holly, and eucalyptus give shelter from wind and frost. Plants with bold leaves and foliage which give an exotic effect have already been planted here. These include bamboos, palms, bananas, ginger lilies, kniphofia, fatsias, cannas, crocosmia and other perennials.
The Woodland Garden has spring and summer flowering shrubs, shade tolerant bulbous plants, herbaceous perennials and ferns, which have been added among the original trees. Drifts of snowdrops, wood anemones and bluebells carpet the ground. As this area matures it will provide much of interest for the visitor. The adjacent Rhododendron Border was planted in spring 2013. There are rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas on one side and mainly deciduous azaleas on the other. They provide colour in April and May. This border also contains hostas, ferns and daphne and Japanese acer.
The area for the Gravel Garden was cleared in March 2012. Two large eucalyptus trees have been retained and a beech hedge planted along the boundary. New trees such as Cercis siliquatrum and a young Abies marocana have been added. The under planting consists of border line tender plants such as Aloe striatula and Fascicularia bicolor linked together with other perennials such as euphorbias, gingers, sedums and ornamental grasses which give structure and texture throughout the year and are attractive to bees and butterflies.