FOUND BEHIND A squared wall tucked in behind Kings Road in Chelsea and backing onto the Thames, the Chelsea Physic Gardens are a special place. Maybe because they are less crowded than many others in London as you need to be a member to visit frequently.
If you aren’t a member there is a fee of £10 to get in however they often have fairs, markets and special days where they encourage the public to come in to view the gardens. Luckily for my friend Shea and I we decided to check out the gardens on a gorgeous sunny winters day and stumbled across a market fair and were encouraged upon entry to take up one of the guided tours. We soon found our guide — a rather eccentric but very passionate lady whose accent (whether real or put on) was extremely posh and therefore extremely entertaining. We set off about the gardens for a bit of a guided tour.
We soon got stuck into the history of the gardens and I was surprised to find that they were called the Physic Gardens because they were used to grow medicinal plants — as in for ‘Physicians’ and ‘Apothecaries’. To be honest I just thought it was one of those weird and wonderful names that pop up around London. Once I learned where its name really came from, I was pretty interested in what kinds of plants and herbs they grew to use and how they developed them. However after a little while, my interest started to fade for as much as I love sitting and appreciating pretty gardens — I’m not one for growing plants and once our lovely tour guide started her detailed talk about why certain plants were pruned a certain way we decided to ditch the tour and wander ourselves.
We wandered through the gardens chatting and pausing occasionally to look at a certain plant or read a little plaque but as neither of us are particular green thumbs we had little or no idea exactly what we were looking at. I did manage to find a section dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks — who most Aussies know was a part of the ‘Endeavour’ crew (and on our old five dollar notes).
During the winter the gardens are popular for their ‘Snowflakes’ which are little white flowers that come out after the cold in early spring. The gardens are currently hosting their Snowflake Extravaganza with two for one tickets and tours of the snowflake trail. Unfortunately when Shea and I went there were none to be found.
The gardens really are gorgeous and extremely interesting if you are into science and gardening however for those of us who like their gardens and parks for sitting on benches, laying on the grass or walking around for fresh air, you’re better off sticking to the not so secret gardens.