This is a bit long in the tooth now, but I still have vivid recollections of visiting Chelsea in May 2015. The day before the flower show I had the good fortune to spend a bit of time exploring London (getting pissed and cycling Boris bikes) after first checking out Chelsea Physic and The Victoria & Albert Museum.
The Chelsea Physic gardens are located in an exquisite part of the great City, full of London Plane lined streets of excellent buildings, oozing quality, class and money. Tucked away down a quiet little brick walled side-street, the garden was bathed in a beautiful moody sunshine and was full of the hum of bees, tourists and the surrounding London murmer. I was surprised at how small the garden is, contained and compacted within its own walls. The planting concentrated on telling a Botanical story, of the importance of plants in human life, from medicine to textiles and their role in influencing economies, historical courses and cultures. Each area focused on a different aspect of plant purpose and was illustrated with the help of information boards or props and the plants themselves.
This is very much an educational garden and is planted as such having just a few of each plant, generally planted in blocks. The whole vibe of the place is classy though, with some beautiful mature examples planted by the garden’s original curators. This garden has serious history which can be explored HERE. There are some wonderful plants here and there has been real thought in how the various areas have been put together, including some pristine collections in the various glass-houses. I’m not one for listing endless plant names when writing about garden visits, unless they are an obvious statement. I’m a sucker for the atmosphere and sense of place created or affected by planting. In this case, Chelsea Physic Gardens manages to up-hold the original values of the garden, as a quality place to educate yourself on botany. The vibe of this garden is University-like, it exudes the same great musty architectural air, you can almost hear your footsteps echo through halls created by stems and branches. Just ignore the gaggles of American tourists shuffling about being herded on their guided tour and meander yourself, soaking up some info and the mind-bending realisation you’re walking the same paths as some of Horticultural sciences’ greatest founders.