See also Chelsea Physic Garden’s World Woodland Garden
The Chelsea Physic Garden, founded in 1673 and the second oldest botanic garden in England, was begun as an apothecaries' garden to train apprentices in identifying plants. It is now a charity committed to the conservation and demonstration of plants used by humankind.
By the 1700s it had begun an international botanic garden seed exchange system, which is still in place today. Environments for supporting different types of plants were built, including the pond rock garden, the oldest rock garden in England and now listed Grade II.
Today the pharmaceutical garden has 5000 medicinal plants including some rare and endangered species. These have all been of proven value in medical practice today. In the garden plants are arranged by the use of the drug from the plants. The groups are Oncology, ENT and Lung Disease, Dermatology, Cardiology, Analgesia/Anaesthesia, Neurology/Rheumatology, Psychiatry, Ophthalmology, Parasitology, and Gastroenterology.
The Garden of World Medicine shows the uses of plants by different cultures. These are grouped into North American Indian, Maori, Aboriginal, Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese, South African Tribal, Medicinal Plants of the Mediterranean, and Herbal Medicine of Northern Europe.
A section of the garden has edible and useful plants. These range from forest fruits to superfoods and plants used for hygiene, science and the arts. There is a compact vineyard and a tank pond.
A glasshouse has tropical, subtropical, and Mediterranean species. Perfumery and aromatherapy borders add to the experience.
Beehives are located in the ‘Mediterranean woodland’. Their honey is for sale in the shop from mid-July. Birds and butterflies inhabit the garden and include wren, robin, song thrush, tits, and more.
Family activity days, walks, and teacher evenings are a few of the garden’s special activities. Snowdrop days and a Christmas fair add to the mix.
No matter where you go in the garden there is a quiet spot tucked away to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Allow a minimum of two hours, if a plant aficionada allow at least three or plan a return visit. Be sure to include a stop at the café for lunch. The food is homemade, excellent and varied.
Chelsea Physic Garden
66 Royal Hospital Rd
London SW3 4HS
Tel. 020 7352 5646
Open: April-end Oct, Tue-Fri, and Sun/BH, 11am-6pm; also open Mon during Chelsea Flower Show; July and Aug, open till 10pm on Wed
Special events listed on website; café (buffet style); shop with garden related items; plants and seeds for sale; wedding parties; lecture room
Web: Chelsea Physic Garden
Visitor entrance at Swan Walk Gate; wheelchair accessible; disabled access via 66 Royal Hospital Road
Reached by underground stations: Sloane Square (District & Circle Lines), South Kensington (Piccadilly, District & Circle Lines); mainline trains to Victoria & Clapham Junction and 170 Bus, alight at Flood Street.
Also buses 11, 19, 22, 137, 211, 319, 360 & C1 stop nearby.
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard
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