Sunday, March 8, 2009

Behind A Garden Wall In Chelsea

On a rainy November day, we set out from our hotel near the Thames, strolled past Chelsea Wharf and along Cheyne Walk (with pauses at # 48 and # 3, sites famous for interests in pharmaceuticals) to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden. Apart from the sign, there was little about the entrance that hinted at the treasures behind the garden wall. If only those walls could talk.

The Physic Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to train apprentices in the identification and uses of plants. Occupying fewer than 4 acres, its location near the river provides a unique micro-climate which allows an astonishing number of species to grow protected from harsh winter weather.

A number of environments have been created to support various types of plants. Among them is the oldest rock garden in England that is open to the public. Surprisingly, the garden was not open to all until 1983.

One of the roles of the Chelsea Physic Garden is to educate the public in natural medicine. Those of you who have frequented my eBay store and know how important this is to me from reading some of my comments about various plants.

Medicinal species from North America include Anemopsis californica, Aralia racemosa, Arnica angustifolia subsp. angustifolia, Baptisia tinctoria, Chenopodium ambrosioides var. anthelminticum, Cimicifuga (syn. Actaea) americana, Cimicifuga (syn. Actaea) racemosa, Echinacea purpurea, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Geranium maculatum, Gillenia trifoliata, Hamamelis virginiana, Hedeoma pulegioides, Lobelia siphilitica, Monarda fistulosa, Nicotiana tabacum, Panax quinquefolius, Podophyllum peltatum, Sanguinaria canadensis, Scutellaria lateriflora, Veratrum viride.

You'll also find medicinal plants used by aboriginals of New Zealand, Australia, India, China, South Africa, the Mediterranean region and Northern Europe.

One section of the garden features plants used in pharmacology, including some studied for applications in oncology, pulmonary disease, dermatology, cardiology, analgesia and anaesthesia, neurology and rheumatology, psychiatry, ophthalmology, parasitology, and gastroenterology. Plants are not only grown for medical evaluation, but also for food and fiber, perfume and aromatherapy.

A walk through the Chelsea Physic Garden will bring you joy at every turn. There are tranquil vistas, elfin landscapes, plant oddities and flowers in profusion to delight you. Be sure to schedule a visit. Check visiting hours before arrival.

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