T E Lawrence (of Arabia) once plotted to kidnap Magdalen’s deer for his own college, All Souls, but did not succeed in doing so. Magdalen was formerly noted for serving excellent venison (though we can’t comment on what they serve up these days).
As well as the more accessible gardens, most colleges have delightful Fellows’ Gardens which are usually closed to the public (and most students of the college). Once a year however several of these are now opened as part of the National Gardens Scheme, and are well worth visiting if you happen to be in Oxford on the right day. www.ngs.org.uk
Sadly, Wadham’s legendarily enormous copper beech tree succumbed to old age a few years ago. What remains of it can be seen in the form of a beautiful storage trunk (no pun intended) kept in the college Chapel.*
The Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are the third oldest in Europe (after Pisa and Leiden). Its original function was to provide herbs for the School of Medicine. The first gardener was a retired German soldier, Jacob Bobart, who was delighted to find that the cess-pits of the colleges provided him with almost unlimited supplies of good growing medium.
He was a powerfully built man, who late in life sported a beard of such length that one day a madman grabbed hold of it and cried out that Bobart had eaten his horse, and its tail was hanging out of his mouth.
Bobart was succeeded by his son, who became Professor of Botany. Around 1700, the Younger Bobart discovered a rat in the garden, and by cosmetic surgery turned it into so convincing a dragon that great excitement was caused in the academic world. The hoaxer eventually confessed, but the 'dragon' was considered such a masterpiece anyway, that it was kept on display in the School of Anatomy.
Bobart the Elder built a conservatory where the greenhouses now stand; this was probably one of the first in England. Since then the greenhouses have been rebuilt several times. They are a treasure-trove of exotic plants, with different greenhouses for tropical jungle plants, edible plants, tropical desert-lovers and carnivorous plants.
Notable Trees are also identified in Daily Info's map of Oxford. They're one of the most popular features!