Friday 7th April 2017 at midday saw the planting of a Cedar of Lebanon tree on the south lawn of the Observatory by Governing Body Garden Fellow, Marella de Bruijn. The ceremony marked the latest phase in our vision for the landscape setting of the building over the very long term. The naming and development of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter has focused great attention on our iconic centrepiece and reciprocally the College’s outlook, both physical and psychological, has altered in response to the thriving academic community that is our new neighbour.
As Head Gardener, Michael Pirie, explained to a gathering of students, Fellows and staff: "The central façade of the Observatory was opened up to better view in 2013 by the removal of two obscuring trees and after much deliberation it was recognized that the building merely required two strong evergreen elements to set it off to best effect. We already had a fine specimen of a Cedar of Lebanon at the western end of the lawn, planted in 1982, and it seemed natural to want to balance this tree – a species from the eastern Mediterranean, with its association to the original Tower of the Winds in Athens that gave James Wyatt his inspiration for the Observatory’s design – with another of the same type. In this respect the sourcing of the new tree was significant because it came to us, through the kind offices of the Curator of Oxford University’s Harcourt Arboretum, from the U.K.’s national pinetum at Bedgebury in Kent where it had been grown from seed collected from Lebanon itself."
Associate Fellow, Jennie Turner, was present at the planting and as Michael emphasised played a key role in this landscape: "Our acknowledgements go to Jennie Turner, whose pair of birch trees at the eastern end of the lawn, one of them planted by her late husband Robert, had to be sacrificed in order for the new Cedar of Lebanon to be planted. I hesitated to admit our intentions to her in advance of their removal, which necessarily had to have the approval of Oxford City Council’s planning office, but she immediately saw the greater objective that lay behind our planting scheme and in response has generously supported the Harcourt Arboretum for their role in acquiring for us such a suitable tree. The setting of the Observatory will be complete when the bronze sculpture of Dr John Radcliffe by Martin Jennings FRBSS, commissioned by the Radcliffe Trustees, is installed later this year."