I was brought up in London and often walked past the high brick walls but in those days the Physic Garden was rarely open to the public. But times have changed so if you get a chance, visit – it’s a little oasis in the middle of Chelsea.
The easiest way to get here is to get a tube to Sloane Square, walk south down Lower Sloane Street, turn right at the lights into Royal Hospital Road and the garden is on the left after about a five minute walk – the entrance is in Swan Walk.
The garden has around 5,000 edible, medicinal and historical plants growing. Many are rare and endangered species as the walls provide a micro-climate for the plants to grow. On my visit, I met a Chilean who was bowled over by some of the extremely rare South American plants that were in flower. [For further information about the garden, read my article on Walled Gardens]
There are pomegranates growing as well as a grapefruit tree, ginkgos, mulberries and eucalyptus trees.
The Dicotyledon Order Beds were laid out in 1902 and include over 800 plants laid out in families according to their flower structures. This system was established by two nineteenth century botanists George Bentham and Joseph Hooker.
The glasshouses were built in 1902 and are filled with exotic species. The first solid-fuel heated greenhouse was built at the Physic Garden by John Watts in 1680.
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries first established the Apothecaries Garden in 1673 on land leased from Sir John Danvers. When Sir Hans Sloane bought the adjoining Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne, Sir Hans offered four acres of land on a lease to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of £5.00 a year in perpetuity. The Physic Garden still pays this amount to Sir Hans’s descendants.
There’s also a wonderful cafe on site and if you’re lucky, you will be given an apple to eat at the entrance!