Let’s get Physick-al!

Last day in the country!  After having breakfast and checking out (poor guy actually had to LIFT my bag in order to store it…!) – I head to Chelsea Physick Gardens, situated in the heart of  Central London.

Cool thing about this Garden is that it’s the oldest botanical garden in London – established in 1673! – and is teeming with a unique living collection of around 5,000 different edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants.

Originally established by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to not only supply apothocarists, it was also used to train apprentices in the healing arts. Since then, it’s become one of the most important plant exchanges in the world.

I took a tour with one of the Head Gardeners, who has a penchant for only calling the plants by their botanical latin name (time to dust off the brain!) who also explained that the unique microclimate in the garden allows many rare and endangered species to flourish – including the largest fruiting olive tree in Britain, as well as grapefruit and other citrus trees. I bet they’ve got to be among the most northerly OUTDOOR tropical fruiting trees (though who can say, now with global warming!)

All of the trees, shrubs and plants are in full fall color this week – which makes me feel slightly better about missing the leaves back home.

Other interesting factoids:  The River Thames used to abut the garden – apothocarists would simply paddle up the river to the Garden to get their supplies. Now the river has got to be hundreds of feet away… I was told that this was due to the “Big Stink”, which resulted in the city filling in the riverbanks and curtailing industry in that area.

Other fun features:  Their annual rent continues to be  £5 a year, as part of a lifetime trust set up by their last benefactor, Sir Hans Sloane (for whom Sloane Square and Street were named). They’ve got a tropical butterfly exhibit (very cramped quarters… but they have several very large – and spectacular – blue butterflies… gorgeous!)

I’m glad I made the trip!

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