The Chelsea Physic Garden

The Chelsea Physic Garden was established back in 1673 for the purpose of training apprentice apothecaries in their craft.  The gardens are now run by an independent charity and provide a green oasis in the heart of the city.  These stunning gardens have a phenomenal collection of plants that are either edible or medicinal.  It is a great place to stop and get your breath back after exploring the city streets and is home to an excellent award winning cafeteria and gift and book shop.

Photo by Karen Bryan
Photo by Karen Bryan

History

These gardens are the oldest botanical gardens in London and date back to 1673 when they were established by the ‘Worshipful Society of Apothecaries’ for the purposes of training and educating young apprentices to the craft, teaching them plant identification and uses.  These elegant gardens became regarded as one of the most important centres for botanical research in the world.  It is the unique microclimate apparent in the gardens that allows some of the more tender and delicate plants to flourish, including some species that are now endangered; this is mainly due to the proximity of the gardens to the River Thames.

It is home to the biggest outdoor olive tree which bears fruit in the whole of the United Kingdom as well as the most northerly located grapefruit tree.  In fact there are over one hundred different varieties of tree in the garden the majority of which are not native to Britain.  There are glass houses that are home to tropical and sub tropical species and a beautiful Victorian fernery.

New Developments

On the 23rd May 2012 there is a new garden opening to the public; within it will be a selection of all of the plants that we as a species rely on to survive.  This garden will encompass not only the plants that we rely on for food, but also for general health and wellbeing as well as plants used for hygiene purposes, for science and the arts. Some of the plants will be beautiful and recognisable whilst others will be strange and alien, yet every one of them is relied on by humanity for one reason or another.

The garden includes designated teaching areas where visitors can learn about these amazing, life sustaining plants.  Visitors will also find a compact vineyard, a living amphitheatre and a beautiful pond, accessed via a stone pier.  The aim of the garden is to bring people closer and give them an understanding of the plants and vegetation that they take so much for granted.

Points of Interest

Within Chelsea Physic garden you will also find Britain’s oldest rock garden currently on public view, which is now grade II listed and dates from 1773.  The gardens have been open to the public since 1983, and the recent increase in natural and plant based medicines has seen the garden develop a pharmaceutical garden to further increase our knowledge and highlight just how many plants indigenous to Britain and those found further afield can be used to benefit health.

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