Chelsea Physic Garden (CPG)
Sunday 5th June 2016
For those not in the know I am lucky enough to be treasurer & part of the Aroma Supergroup (we’re not singing our own praises by the way, our tutors called us that :). It’s a support group set up by myself & my fellow Neal’s Yard Remedies Aromatherapy Diploma students after we graduated.
It’s fab for us, we had all become friends & really bonded over the two years that we had trained. This way we get to still meet up, hear each others news & career progress (whether in aromatherapy, massage or something completely different…) & give tons of support & advice. Plus we have definitely needed hugs during various meltdowns & major life decisions! The other principal reason for the group is education & development; it contributes towards our CPD (continuing professional development). So we make sure that at our regular quarterly meetings we have the most amazing speakers (therapists, tutors, complementary therapy professionals) to inspire & talk to us about what they do. So far we have had workshops, advice & talks on starting out as a therapist from one of our NYR mentors, Francesca Walsh; Bach Flower Remedies from our beautiful & talented group member Muriel Pichard; Chinese Herbal Medicine from Gail Newton, & Dietary & Nutritional advice from dietitian Dalia Maori.
We regularly meet in the hallowed rooms of the East India Club on St. James Square – think hushed & beautifully appointed rooms lined with wood, leather & books, where the only portraits of women are Queen Victoria & Queen Elizabeth II! We’re very fortunate to have such a beautiful & professional location to meet in – happy times 🙂
We also pepper our meetings with group visits. Our first was to the soothingly fragrant Downderry Lavender Farm, complete with guided tour of the many varieties of Lavender & Rosemary, history of the farm & distillery – highly recommended. It also got rid of my headache in under half an hour in a cloud of peacefulness! Also our very special Christmas meetings with afternoon tea: a blow-out of finger sandwiches, scones, cream, jam, cakes & nibbles washed down with oodles of tea & champers – yum!
O To Be In England….
So, our summer trip this year was to the Chelsea Physic Garden. Sigh, I have a new love! Admittedly, it may have helped that it was the hottest day of the year, the sky was the colour of cornflowers, the Roses were in full bloom, the vegetation lush with new growth & the colours so vivid & intense that it almost stung your eyes. In short, just about everyone in the garden was chilling out, lying in the sunshine, fascinated by all the plants around them & I saw many simply smiling with the pure pleasure of being there.
Chelsea Physic Garden (CPG)
The oldest botanic garden in London, Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for the purpose of training apprentices in identifying & propagating plants, with over 5,000 different species. It’s a bargain at £10.50 to enter, with plenty of free guided tours highlighting the main features & little known facts. For example, did you know that nettles were used to make clothing in World War II?
The garden is like a concentrated version of Kew Gardens, but as a result is much more manageable to visit in a day & have a good walk around (although, like my beloved workplace the Petrie Museum there is still a surprising amount to see!). From the street you might walk right past (& trust me I realize now that I actually have) but slip through a doorway & you find yourself in a walled haven within the city – ‘London’s Secret Garden’ is aptly named. Plus there is a really good restaurant with absolutely delicious fresh produce, most of it from the garden itself. We feasted on a bright plate of fresh mixed salads – never has salad been so yummy or less simple: heritage Tomatoes nestle with griddled Asparagus & types of Beetroot I never knew existed!
‘The Garden’s warm microclimate means that many tender plants flourish here including a number of rare and endangered species. It has the largest outdoor fruiting olive tree in Britain and the world’s most northerly outdoor grapefruit tree. From pomegranates to ginkgos, mulberries to eucalyptus, there are over 100 different types of tree in the Garden, many of which are rare in Britain. The glasshouses hold a collection of tropical and sub-tropical species, complemented by a Victorian Cool Fernery.’ (CPG website)
The garden is quartered into 4 main sections with roughly 6 different areas to explore, feel free to take a look on the CPG website with links below:
- The Garden of Medicinal Plants
- The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants
- The Historical Walk
- Island Endemic Flora
- World Woodland Garden
The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants contained our favourite section – on aromatherapy & perfumery, with all manner of plants that we use as essential oils.
There were so many, from the meadow flowers surrounding the pond; the Delphiniums with their vivid, rich indigo purple-blue; the bright scarlet Poppies & my two great loves: a myriad of lacy green in the Fern House &, of course, Gingko biloba! 🙂
Still, just like our group the garden is about more than just beauty & was founded with more serious concerns in mind. It’s also involved with the usefulness of plants, botany & their importance for the future of the planet & humans: education, outreach projects, conservation & medicinal uses.
For the latter the garden has a specific section, The Garden of Medicinal Plants, which is an aromatherapists dream. Here are to be found plants from the traditional herbal garden of the medieval period, to plants which have been used for literally thousands of years such as Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), to those used in the latest pharmaceutical research – here the plants have been separated into sections dependant on the condition or illness. There is also a fascinating poison bed, where we were shown how hard it can be to differentiate between everyday plants such as Cow Parsley/Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) & deadly poisons such as Hemlock (Conium maculatum) – better known as the poison used by Socrates.
Our guided tour ended with volunteer guide Cathy ruminating on the importance of the garden in helping to conserve & propagate plants for the future – whether because they have gone extinct in their native habitat, are the subject of preservation concerns or simply because, as she remarked, we simply don’t know what many of these amazing plants may be able to do for us & the planet.