Described as London’s Secret Garden and it’s oldest outdoor classroom, Chelsea Physic Garden houses nearly 5,000 edible, medicinal, historical, and useful plants. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, it is London’s oldest garden. Nestled along the Thames, it’s a wonderful stop nearby some of London’s greatest museums and galleries found in the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Knightsbridge, and Belgravia. If you’re interested in medicinal plants, gardening, or just getting away from the hustle of the city, come here!
The garden itself is tucked away – I walked past it several times without noticing it (hence the “secret” part!) but once inside you’ll be treated to some of the most rare trees and plants the world over.
Each plant growing the the garden is useful and of historical value. Throughout the park there are placards describing how the plants are or were used. Tours are available and there are printed guides available as well.
Because of Britain’s microclimate, Londoners are able to grow strangely Mediterranean cultivars. For this reason, Chelsea Physic houses the most northerly grapefruit tree, the largest fruiting olive in Britain, and a collection of around 100 other trees including eucalyptus and ginkgo. Also on the grounds is a glasshouse for tropicals and a fernery (!).
The garden regularly chooses a theme for summer – 2017’s theme is about plants and their uses in fabric and weaving throughout history.
In addition to the garden, Tangerine Dream Cafe serves lunch and afternoon tea outside amongst the green. Served buffet style, you can pick up all sorts of little items (which I totally did) such as roast beef with beets and horseradish or roasted tomato and goat cheese tarts. And while these were fantastic, if it’s available, grab yourself a scone with housemade jam and a slice of their orange and polenta cake. Perfectly portioned; perfect all around.
And if you’re feeling really inspired, pop into their gift shop for books on growing a medicinal garden (or Tangerine Dream Cafe’s book to recreate those scones), garden-grown seed packets, or some really classy and very British gardening gear.