Thursday, 9 March 2017

Chelsea Physic Garden - Chelsea, London, UK

I have been busy designing gardens, sending out quotes and booking landscape projects in so that people have a beautiful new space ready for them to use this summer. After a busy few weeks and lots of time either at my desk or zipping around London's busy streets I was completely enriched by a visit to this enchanting walled garden.

This garden feels friendly and beguiling at the same time; it's intimate size and old established plants feel traditional and welcoming but you soon realise that the every part of this space is filled with history and the ghosts of some of the most important and powerful people of the past. The both grand and bountiful red brick mansion house of Chelsea encircle the garden and created a unique backdrop to the space.

There is an almost ridiculous entanglement of epic history in every part of the garden. The pond and rockery being the perfect example of this. The rockery in itself is pleasant enough but not dissimilar to many you might come across in various stately homes or historical parks but when you learn that this is the oldest rockery in the whole of the Western World it seems to appear differently. Its rocks are not just dug up from around the garden but are made up old pieces of The Tower of London; the giant shells adorning the pond are not just shells from the beach but came from Captain Cook's expeditions; the plants are not just grown from seeds collected from a garden but were bought back from expeditions of unknown lands by Sir Hans Sloane (whom Sloane Square is named after) over 300 years ago.

The garden was first created in 1673 and formed part of what we know as The Enlightenment when we started looking at the wold through a more scientific lens. During the past 344 years plants have continued to grow uninterrupted at this site. Unlike visiting a stuffy museum and viewing items from behind a rope or through glass you can actually see, touch and smell the past here.
An old pomegranate tree has been happily growing against a sunny wall in the garden for hundreds of years. It has steadily and surely flowered, fruited and dropped it's seed without any fuss while the city around it has seen Kings, Queens and wars come and go with so much trouble and strife.

After walking around the garden and absorbing the subtle magnificence of the space it would have been wrong to leave without lingering and contemplating the landscape. After the long winter we have had, being able sit out and feel the warm rays of the sun on your face felt like the return of a wise old friend that you hadn't seen for a long time.