The Art of the English Garden


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

Alexander Pope wrote that “all gardening is landscape painting” while Horace Walpole described “Poetry, Painting, and Gardening” as “the Three New Graces who dress and adorn nature”.  Throughout history there has been a close relationship between the painter’s ability to distil a vision of the world and the gardener’s attempts to shape that world.  In this course we look at the relationship between painting and gardening, at paintings that recorded gardens, at gardens that inspired painters, at paintings that inspired gardeners and at painters who gardened.  A visit will be made to the 18th century garden at Stourhead in Wiltshire to see one of England’s most picturesque gardens.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.

Garden art of Medieval and Renaissance England.  The garden as paradise, an escape from the terrors of a natural world; and the garden portrait as a status symbol.

The 18th century garden in paintings. Nature perfected “as Reynolds would picture some exquisite maid”. The rise of the picturesque and of the plantsman’s picturesque. 

The splendour of the high Victorian garden and its rejection by advocates of the Arts and Crafts movement.  A new marriage of painting and gardening in the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll, William Robinson and Alfred Parsons. 

Visit to Stourhead in Wiltshire: an 18th century garden inspired by paintings and an inspiration for later painters.

The 20th century: modern art and the garden. 


Field Trip

Destination:   Stourhead; Wiltshire

Excursion Rating: Moderate
Up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl. field trip, lunch and dinner) £1145.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals) £1640.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals) £1455.00


Mr Richard Bisgrove


Richard Bisgrove studied horticulture and landscape architecture in England and the USA before lecturing for forty years at the University of Reading. He has had long associations with the Gardens Panel of the National Trust and with the Garden History Society, and has been involved with OUDCE for many years. 

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room)*.

*If you wish to book a twin en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.


If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)