Chelsea Physic Garden

 In Gardens Visited

Chelsea Physic Garden Snowdrop Days

With time to spare before attending an event in the Palace of Westminster I made a long overdue visit to Chelsea Physic Garden right in the heart of London.

chelsea physic sign

chelsea physic sign

A little background history

Now Chelsea Physic Garden has been around a long time and it is in fact the second oldest botanical garden in the England and second only to Oxford Botanical Garden. The Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh is arguably the second oldest in Britain but, with the Chelsea Physic Garden being established as an apothecaries’ garden way back in 1673, I think that we can all agree that it is very old indeed!

chelsea physic gdn entrance

chelsea physic garden entrance

I visited this time because I was curious to see the snowdrop collection that had been assembled. This year, due to the record breaking warm [and wet] winter, the garden’s snowdrop days were brought forward by two weeks since the bulbs were so advanced.

Chelsea Physic Garden although small, is a perfect venue for a collection of named varieties of these delightful winter flowering plants. If you want to see massed plantings then there are other gardens that are better suited to this [see list below].

A considerable section of the garden had been revamped in recent years to develop a woodland-like area that is well suited to growing snowdrops. The short trail is clearly marked with numbers and links to a printed guide.

snowdrop trail markers

snowdrop trail markers

There are 500 varieties and some 16 species of snowdrops with most originating from the Turkish/Russian border. Apparently the first introductions to Britain came as a result of a soldier bringing bulbs back from the Crimean War and these were given to that remarkable plantsman E. A Bowles . On his death his collection of snowdrops found their way to Chelsea Physic Garden and it is this collection that forms the core of this garden’s collection now.

It is also thought that Galanthus nivalis, regarded by many as a British native, was in fact brought to these shores by the Romans.

winter colour bulbs perennials

winter colour bulbs perennials

Medicinal Properties

Of course a physic or apothecaries’ garden is a source of medicinal plants and you might be wondering why snowdrops feature. Well, it seems that an ingredient of snowdrops can be used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease and I understand that Narcissus, a close relative of snowdrops are being cultivated now to that end.

Complimenting the snowdrops are snowflakes [Leucojum species] and many other notable winter flowering shrubs. But if you are in Chelsea I can recommend the on-site Tangerine Dream Cafe which serves excellent food, drink and cake! This makes a visit worthwhile in its own right! Grouped around the statue of Sir Hans Sloane in the centre of the garden was a magnificent display of small winter flowering and colourful bulbs and perennials.

snowdrops on sale at chelsea physic

snowdrops on sale at chelsea physic

Bulbs on Sale

For the short duration of the Chelsea Physic Garden Snowdrop Days a marque offered a chance for Galanthophiles [those most afflicted by the charm of collecting these delightful bulbs] to add to their collection since over 50 varieties were on sale! These included two varieties displayed in a locked glass case that appeared to be on sale for £30 and £50 for a single small pot! The most expensive variety was none other than Galanthus nivalis ‘E. A. Bowles’!

But for me the icing on the cake was a blacked-out section of the marque that displayed a stage of snowdrops floodlit to enchanting and magical effect.

glass cased snowdrops

glass cased snowdrops

The Snowdrop Days are now over for another year and the Chelsea Physic Garden goes back to being closed until its normal opening times of April to the end of October.

However there are gardens open all over Britain that feature snowdrops! Her are a few places to try.

Gardens featuring snowdrops open under the National Garden Scheme
National Trust Gardens with snowdrops
Some other gardens that feature snowdrops

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