A Winter Day at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Now I’ll admit that at this time of year, I have an overwhelming urge to hibernate until Spring arrives.  But one bright, sunshiney, blue sky day last week, conscious of my dwindling Vitamin D levels and general seasonal pallor, I wrapped up warm and headed to the Botanic Garden which has to be my favourite green space in the city.  Home to one of the region’s largest tree collections, it’s a magical place in every season, even – and maybe especially – in Winter.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers and it always makes me smile when I come across their cheerful white blooms in midwinter.  You’ll find around 30 different varieties of snowdrop dotted through the Garden and there’s a map to show you the snowdrop “hot spots”.  These little white flowers look so delicate and yet they are so strong; they have anti-freeze proteins to inhibit ice crystals forming and causing damage to the plant plus they have seriously hard leaf tips which help them to break through frozen soil.  This drift of snowdrops under Isaac Newton’s apple tree is just beautiful and reminds me that Spring must surely be around the corner.

Snowdrops at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

The Winter Garden is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is stunning with textures of coloured stems, bark and foliage alongside winter flowers and scented blossom, all highlighted in the brilliant sunshine.  I find wandering through this space is restorative in itself but to get to grips with more detail of the planting, I’ll sign up for a free 60 minute tour of the Winter Garden, which happens at 2.30pm every Sunday in January and February.

Winter Garden at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Crazy Cone Caper at Cambridge University Botanic GardenThe Botanic Garden runs a terrific range of events for all ages year round.  Children will love the Crazy Cone Caper, a self guided family trail where they become a secret agent and track down six trees in the Garden to solve a mystery, collecting a prize once they’ve successfully concluded their investigation.  Crazy Cone Caper has been created by the Garden’s Learning Team and runs until 1 April.

For adults, Cam Late in the Glasshouse Range on 21 February offers craft beer, mulled wine and atmospheric light displays in these amazing glasshouses, where you’ll find plants ranging from tiny alpines to spiny cacti to exotic tropicals.  Day or night, the glasshouses are spectacular whatever the time of year.  And they’re also nice and warm if you get chilly outside on a cold day!

Glasshouse at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

With my appetite sharpened by the fresh air, I popped in to the light, airy Garden Cafe for lunch.  Its menu of home made goodies includes warming soup, delicious cakes and children’s meals.  Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options are always available.  High chairs, baby changing facilities and a selection of children’s books to borrow make this this a truly family friendly spot.

Winter Garden at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

For more information on Cambridge University Botanic Garden including their 2019 programme of courses and workshops as well as details of special events planned for the February half term break, take a look at the website.



Apple Day at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

The old apple tree at the end of our garden was laden with fruit when we moved into our house two years ago.  So much so that we put big bowls of the delicious, sweet apples at our gate for passers by to help themselves.  But we had no idea what variety these apples were and would still be none the wiser if it were not for the Cambridge University Botanic Garden’s Apple day, a fabulous celebration of all things appley, which is happening again on Sunday 22 October.

People apple tasting
Image credit: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Will Greenfield

There’s something for everyone at this event.  Over two dozen varieties of locally grown apples will be available for tasting and you can buy your favourites.  Experts will be on hand to advise you on apple cultivation – what to grow, how to plant and how to prune for a bumper crop.  A marquee on the Main Lawn will be full of locally produced edibles and there will also be a wide choice of refreshments from a variety of food trucks and the Garden Cafe, which will offer plenty of apple themed dishes alongside its normal menu.

Experts from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project will offer an apple identification service so if you have a mystery tree in your garden, just bring along two or three apples, ideally with a leaf and stalk attached to help with identification.  Who knows, you may bring a lost heritage variety to light!

Apples in a box
Image credit: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Will Greenfield

Younger visitors will be able to get creative with craft activities led by local paper cut artist Vanessa Stone and Cambridge Sustainable Food.  There will be mini gardens to visit and mini lawn mowers to play on plus live music on the Main Lawn as well as a performance from the Cambridge Morris Men.  Tour guides will lead free specialist seasonal garden tours which you can sign up for on the day.

For Apple Day, you can book tickets in advance, either online or at the Ticket Office, the advantage being that you get fast track entry.  But tickets will also be available on the day at The Ticket office and under 16s get in free!  I can testify that the forty acre Botanic Garden, which is home to one of the region’s largest tree collections, is a magical place in every season, a really peaceful oasis in a busy city so for future visits, you might like to become a Friend of the Garden – membership offers you free access, regular updates and exclusive events.

Autumn Botanic Garden
Image credit: Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Will Greenfield

And as for our mystery apple tree ….. the experts identified it as Laxton’s Superb, a late Victorian dessert apple dating back to 1897.  It’s nice to think that we have our own little piece of appley heritage at the end of the garden!


1 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE