The Chelsea Physic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in London with over 5000 medicinal and herbal plants. The four-acre tranquil garden is inside a walled plot near the River Thames. It dates back to 1673 when the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries created this useful garden which gained an international reputation. If you love botanical gardens, medical history or you are looking for interesting things to do in London, you must visit the Chelsea Physic Garden in London SW3.
Back of Sir Hans Sloane Statue, Café and Lawn
Chelsea Physic Garden Highlights
The medicinal garden has a unique micro-climate thanks to its location, position and soil. It is close to the River Thames; the site provides warm air currents which help the plants to thrive. It also gave the gardeners a place to moor their barges so they could explore London to find plants that would help people. The south-facing position is ideal for plant growth, such as the UK’s largest fruit-bearing olive tree.
Plant Beds and Main Building
On entry at the Swan Walk Gate, you will see the Garden of Medicinal Plants on your right where apothecaries grew plants in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is a fascinating part of the garden with beds displaying plants that would have been used by herbalists, healers, shaman and witch doctors. The Dioscorides Bed shows plants listed by Greek pharmacologists while the Officinalis Bed displays plants used by early pharmacies. As you wander around this glorious garden, it will occur to you just how important plants are in our daily lives. Medicine, perfume, beauty and food products all benefit from plant ingredients or extracts.
Behind the Garden of Medicinal Plants is the Tropical Corridor and Glasshouses. Unfortunately, these were closed on our visit, although the doors were open so you could poke your head in and have a look inside. The glasshouses contain around 1200 plants, some of which are very rare. You will find more glasshouses as you explore the garden. The fernery was fabulous!
On the left, as you enter at Swan Walk, are the Systematic Order Beds with 800 plants laid according to their families. Angiosperms (flower plants) are in two groups – Dicotyledons (two seed leaves at germination), and opposite across the path and woodland area is Monocotyledons (single leaf at germination).
Behind the Dicotyledons Beds is a tranquil water feature called Fortune’s Tank, The Garden of Edible Plants and the Garden of Useful Plants. I was drawn to the perfume plants which as you can imagine smelt rather lovely.
Look out for the Sir Hans Sloane Statue (straight ahead as you enter via Swan Walk Gate), who was an early benefactor of the Chelsea Physic Garden. The sculpture is by Michael Rysbrach.
Sir Hans Sloane Statue
The Sir Hans Sloane Statue stands next to a lovely pond with aquatic plants where you will see a bust of plant hunter Joseph Banks. Take a moment to admire the Pond Rockery which is Europe’s oldest with a selection of Mediterranean and alpine plants.
The History Beds (Western side of the garden) shows plants introduced or named by people who have worked in the garden over the last 300 years. Nearby is a woodland area which has shade if you want to escape the sun.
When you are feeling hungry head for the café, we treated ourselves to a couple of cakes which were delicious, particularly the carrot cake. Otherwise, you can try something tasty like the Spiced Red Lentil and Coriander Soup, a Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad with Walnut Pesto or Pan-Fried Fillet of Sea Bass. Drinks include tea, coffee and wine.
Next to the café is a delightful gift shop. Buy yourself something special or a present for a friend’s birthday. Have a browse while you are there and pick up gardening tools, plant history books and more. The toilets are in-between the gift shop and café.
There are plenty of benches dotted around the grounds, and people were sitting down, enjoying a snack or reading a book. It’s undoubtedly a tranquil haven to relax and unwind at the weekend.
Chelsea Physic Garden Information
To find out more visit the Chelsea Physic Garden Website. Check online for opening times and ticket prices which are around £13.50 per adults and children under five can go in for free. At the moment you need to book your ticket in advance online. The address is 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4HS. The closest station is Sloane Square (District and Circle Lines). I hope you enjoy your visit to this beautiful garden. It’s a must for all plant and garden lovers!