Exploring the Chelsea Physic Garden

Every May sees garden lovers from all over the world flocking to the Chelsea Flower Show, but keen horticulturists need not visit Chelsea only in May, as the Chelsea Physic Garden is just a few hundred yards down the road.

Chelsea Physic Garden

In 1683 the garden was founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries as a place to grow the plants they used for medicine.  Junior apothecaries studied here and one them, Sir Hans Sloane (he of Sloane Square), went on to be so successful that he was able to purchase the manor of Chelsea and then leased out four acres of land to the Society of Apothecaries at a rent of £5 a year in perpetuity.  £5 was quite a lot in 1722, today it would barely buy you two coffees but it is still the rent today.

Chelsea Physic Garden

As you enter the garden, the beds to your left are devoted to dicotyledon plants (that means that the seed produces two leaves).  In late April when I visited, some plants were in full flower but you see that visitors later in the year will be treated to other flowers and the pomp of full summer foliage.

Chelsea Physic Garden

At the foot of the Sir Hans Soane statue a rock garden can be found.  This is no ordinary rock garden, no this is a Grade II listed rock garden.  Its rocks are volcanic stone brought back from the coast near Reykjavik by plant hunter extraordinaire Sir Joseph Banks, especially for the Physic Garden, the rest of the stone comes from the Tower of London which was undergoing restoration in 1772 when the rock garden was constructed.  That’s just rocky part, the plants are pretty spectacular too.

Chelsea Physic Garden

All the plants in the garden are either edible or have a medical use.  These two colourful specimens are the hop used for making beer and the Judas Tree, the flowers of which you could add to a salad.

Chelsea Physic Gaden

Looking at gardens is thirsty work so thankfully the Physic Garden has the whimsically named Tangerine Dream café in which to sit with a cup of tea (or lunch) and gaze over the tranquil grounds.  One of the things that made for that tranquillity was a lack of children, lots of the plants are poisonous and for looking only,  I think that maybe the Chelsea Physic Garden is place to visit with grown-ups.

Swan Walk, London W3 4HS

Open: Monday 11am – 5 pm (garden only, café and shop closed, enter via 66Chelsea Hospital Road)
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm (or dusk if earlier)
Late opening until 10pm on Tuesday and Wednesday in July and August
Admission: Adults £9.50, concessions £6.25, children under 5 free

Chelsea Physic Garden, London garden filled with healing plants in the centre of London


  1. April 27, 2017 / 11:33 am

    Ah this is on my To Do list! I can feel some sort of Chelsea trip combining this and the revamped Army Museum happening in the summer! #MMBC

    • April 27, 2017 / 3:35 pm

      Both very good with excellent cafes

  2. April 27, 2017 / 3:57 pm

    This looks like an amazing place. It reminded me of an article I wrote about herbalist John Parkinson who published his epic 1,788 page book, Theatrum Botanicum, in 1640 (it took him 50 years to write). A lovely couple from Norfolk brought it back to life recently, which was what I was writing about. Fascinating stuff.

  3. April 29, 2017 / 4:11 pm

    What a beautiful place to visit. I love a walk around places like this, so will have to keep this in mind when I’m over that way 🙂

    Thanks so much for joining in with #MMBC. Have a lovely weekend and hopefully see you Monday x

  4. April 30, 2017 / 10:19 am

    Hi Catherine, someone is renting a bit of garden for a bargain price these days! It does look very pretty there and I never knew you could eat the flowers from a Judas tree!

    Thank you for linking up with the #MMBC.


    • April 30, 2017 / 5:08 pm

      Maybe there is a good reason that it is a little known fact!

  5. May 2, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    I’ve never heard of this garden though I love visiting the Chelsea flower show

    One to remember #citytripping

    • May 2, 2017 / 1:02 pm

      Perfect for a spot of urban greenery

  6. Wherejogoes
    May 2, 2017 / 8:32 pm

    Chelsea Flower Show is on my list of events I really want to go to. I’ve never been to the Physic Garden but must make the time to do so in future, it looks lovely and has such a fascinating history. A real oasis in the heart of London. #CityTripping

    • May 2, 2017 / 9:05 pm

      The Flower Show is amazing, definitely an event to attend!

      • Wherejogoes
        May 3, 2017 / 7:06 am

        We’re away every year when it’s on. I need to plan better!

        • May 3, 2017 / 7:33 am

          It coincides with my birthday, my father exhibited and then judged at the show. He always said he only ever missed two shows in his adult life one for National Service and one for my birth. I didn’t get to go until I was twenty something!

  7. May 2, 2017 / 9:05 pm

    I love that this piece of history endures – you might expect a castle to see off the centuries but it’s rather satisfying that a garden has too. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  8. May 3, 2017 / 2:56 am

    Oh, talk about a gardener’s paradise! I love hearing about the history behind a location, and that rent! Talk about rent control! 🙂

  9. May 3, 2017 / 7:26 am

    Looks brilliant, I must visit this Summer. Thanks for sharing. #citytripping

  10. May 4, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    So fascinating to hear the links between the Tower of London and Sir Joseph Banks! And I like the idea of a set rent in perpetuity, not something you’ll see in London’s property market today! I thought it might not be suitable for children, so thanks for making that explicit. I’ll save it for when I need a bit of ‘me time’. #citytripping

    • May 4, 2017 / 12:45 pm

      They have family workshops, but I would be wary of letting children run free with so many tempting berries on offer!

  11. October 5, 2017 / 11:29 am

    I really enjoyed your article because i am a huge fan of gardens. This is one I’ve been wanting to see. Herbalism is one of those oft-overlooked studies that are still relevant, and for sure it is effective. Oops … don’t tell Big Pharma I said so.

    • October 5, 2017 / 11:36 am

      Herbalism fascinates me too

  12. October 5, 2017 / 5:20 pm

    Love this! Too bad my next visit will take place in December, but I’ll save this for a summer visit! #farawayfiles

  13. October 6, 2017 / 9:57 am

    Fabulous – still worth a visit in autumn? Hope so! #FarawayFiles

    • October 6, 2017 / 10:18 am

      Yes lots of autumn colour and michaelmas daisies

  14. Clare Thomson
    October 6, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    What a delightful spot in the middle of London! Love the look of the café among the flowers too. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • October 6, 2017 / 6:33 pm

      The cafe did have lovely cakes

  15. October 10, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    I did actually take the kids, or at least my so here once, but it was in something of an off season I think, so the temptation for him to try to eat anything in the garden was minimal – and a good thing too!

    • October 10, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Never good to eat strange berries!

  16. April 22, 2019 / 3:07 pm

    I would love to go to the Chelsea Flower Show one day but the dates are always hopeless for me so maybe I’ll just have to content myself with this lovely place. I had no idea the flowers from a Judas tree were edible. We have loads of Judas trees around us. Maybe I’ll pink up a salad one of these days!

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