On Friday my sister arrived to join me for the weekend and we checked into our hotel just behind Harrods. This was a relatively new area for us. We had decided to avoid the Central London and City areas as the London Marathon on the Sunday meant big crowds and closed roads and limited access everywhere.
So, being in the Belgravia area seemed a good opportunity to visit lesser known places in the Chelsea area. For many years I’ve wanted to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden but haven’t been in the right place at the right time. Friday being beautifully warm and sunny we decided to step out down Sloane Street and Royal Hospital Road where, next door to the Royal Hospital (think, Chelsea Pensioners), we found the high walls surrounding another oasis of peace and calm.
The rock garden of basalt rocks is a listed monument
“Tucked away beside the Thames, Chelsea Physic Garden is a celebration of the beauty and importance of plants. This walled Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants and it became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world. Today, as an independent charity the Garden relies on the support of visitors and Friends to help protect and nurture the Garden for future generations.” [From the website]
The Cafe in the 17th century curator’s house
There are free tours every half hour with a volunteer guide so we decided to join one of these first, before having lunch outside the Tangerine Dream Cafe.
The Gates lead to the Chelsea Embankment and beyond that to the River Thames which was so important to the Garden bringing boats alongside with their cargoes of exotic plants
Gardeners and volunteers at work in the Systematic Order Beds
It was impossible for our introductory tour to include all of the gardens on the site :
Garden of Medicinal Plants
The Pharmaceutical Garden
World Woodland Garden
The Garden of World Medicine
The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants
Botanical Order Beds
Island Endemic Flora
[Each garden is explained on the website.]
so after lunch we visited most of the rest – the greenhouses, the new world woodland garden and had a closer look at the two information point caravans devoted to Sir Hans Sloane and the Swedish plantsman Linnaeus.
Each cart contains information about Carl Linnaeus and Sir Hans Sloane
Sir Hans Sloane (a copy of the original)
Dr. Hans Sloane, after whom the nearby locations of Sloane Square and Sloane Street were named, purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne. This purchase of about 4 acres was leased to the Society of Apothecaries for £5 a year in perpetuity. Sloane was also a founder of the British Museum.
‘Curse or Cure?’ is the title of the 2015 temporary outdoor art installation created for the Garden by ceramic artist Nici Ruggiero. It consists of a trail of 15 inscribed apothecary jars displayed on metal spikes amongst the plants and a larger display of 21 jars against the wall.
Description of the Installation
A Jar on a Spike
The 21 Jars
Read here an article by Lisa Jardine which appeared in the Financial Times Magazine in 2013. You may need to register to read.