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Churchill College’s grounds and gardens are one of Cambridge’s best kept secrets. Covering a 42-acre site, the original design was drawn up in the early 1960s by the landscape architect Shelia Haywood, who used planting for foliage and form—creating landscapes with borders surrounding buildings rather than traditional gardens. The grounds and gardens have evolved over the years but they still retain the integrity of the original planting.
The first trees on site, a Quercus robur (oak) and a Morus nigra (black mulberry), were planted by the College’s Founder, Sir Winston Churchill, on 17 October 1959. The Morus nigra was devastated in 1994 when heavy foliage and inclement weather caused it to fall to the ground. But it has since re-grown and like the oak, it is a magnificent specimen. These trees were joined in 2009 by a Morus alba ‘Pendula’ (white mulberry) which was planted by Sir Winston’s daughter, Mary Soames, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the trees that were planted by her father. These three trees are all thriving.
There are now some seven hundred trees across the site. The College is very proud of its tree collection, which includes both British natives along its boundary line and exotic and unusual trees elsewhere. Of particular interest are the majestic Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood), Paulownia tomentosa (Foxglove tree), Davidia involucrata (Handkerchief tree), Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip tree) and the Catalpa bignonioides (Indian bean tree).
Since 1996 the College has been carrying out extensive redevelopment work as many of the original plants had become overgrown. However, it continues to work within the spirit of the original design as set out by Sheila Haywood in the early 1960s although it has also taken the opportunity to develop new areas. Of particular note is the new Winston Churchill Border, the summer herbaceous borders, and in spring, the stunning display of some 20,000 daffodils near the Chapel at Churchill College.
The College has been grateful for the donations it has received over the years, from individual trees and plants through to the establishment of an orchid collection in a new glasshouse, and the creation of a mini arboretum. The Xiaotian Fu garden will honour a series of generous gifts pledged to the College by Ms Xiaotian Fu (G06) and will provide an environment for peaceful academic work and tutorial meetings in the summer months.
John Moore, Head of Grounds & Gardens
Paula Laycock (former Registrar) and John Moore (Head of Grounds & Gardens) are writing a book about the development of the College’s grounds and gardens from the work of the first landscape architect, Sheila Haywood, in the early 1960s and the original planting schemes through to changes in the present day.