( ALGS )



Abbots Langley Gardening Society

Talk on The Chelsea Physics Garden
Mike Watts

October 2009

This month`s meeting was a talk and slide show about the history of the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was given by Mike Watts, who among other things, is a guide at the garden, and lectures for the National Trust. The garden dates from 1673 and is the second oldest botanical garden in Britain. At that time botany was part of medicine, plants can either kill or cure. Apothecaries would train apprentices in the use of plants and when the green house was built, it was possible to keep plants from all round the world to be used in research and to provide a wider range of cures for different illnesses. People stole plants so the garden was enclosed with a high wall. It is still known as the Secret Garden because it is not visible to the passer by. It has been open to the public since 1983.

There are many Historical beds dedicated to previous gardeners.

Today there is a Curator who lives in the house, five gardeners, two students and many volunteers. It is run as a charity, they have open days, let out the lecture rooms, a shop a café and hold wedding receptions in the grounds. They also have thousands of school children visiting.

There is a bed dedicated to poisonous plants, one for aromatherapy and one for perfume, another for plants that were used in the dyeing industry. Today about half of all medicine is plant based. The garden was on the banks of the Thames until the Embankment was built, and a barge would transport the Apothecaries around London. The main gate, which leads off the Embankment, is only opened for two reasons. Either if Royalty visits, and the red carpet is laid down, or for the delivery of manure!


The Gardening Society holds monthly meetings on the third Thursday of the month in the Manor House Sports and Social Centre at 8 pm. There is a bar and raffle, visitors welcome £1.00.In November we will have a talk on plant propagation and in December a demonstration on wood-turning.