THE Chelsea Physic Garden was established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in London, England, in 1673 and is the second oldest botanical garden in Britain. The garden is an oasis of tranquility which has been used to grow and demonstrate medicinal and useful plants for nearly 350 years.
The Garden has had a wide impact around the World, playing a key role in introducing the rubber industry to Malaysia and cotton to the Southern US. Perhaps most significant was the establishment of the tea industry in India.
The use of glasshouses at Chelsea Physic Garden has allowed gardeners to cultivate many challenging and exotic species.
RTN spoke exclusively with experts at Chelsea Physic Garden to find out their top 5 plant picks that thrive in a Mediterranean climate:
Pelargonium ‘Surcouf’ – glorious in terracotta pots grouped together, pelargoniums require little watering and they love heat and sunshine which makes them the perfect plants for the Mediterranean, particularly on a small balcony or terrace. Be sure to dead head regularly and feed once a week with high potash (tomato) feed to encourage a better and longer flowering season.
There is a huge variety of pelargoniums to choose from and they come with all sorts of leaf shapes (often fragrant) and colours. Pelargonium ‘Surcouf’ has fantastic lipstick pink flowers which last month after month throughout summer.
Pelargonium Sidoides – this very dainty species of pelargonium/geranium has circular, crinkled, silver-grey-green leaves and clusters of small, deep magenta – almost black – flowers on fine, long, wiry stems. A plant native to coastal South Africa, In Western medicine, the red roots of the plant have been used to treat the common cold and acute bronchitis.
Olive Trees – the glorious shade a tree provides in a hot climate is very welcome. Olive trees are almost synonymous with the Mediterranean as they are useful for crops of olives and love the hot dry, conditions.
Pinus Canariensis(Canary Island Pine) – an elegant pine tree and great for the Mediterranean as its one of the most drought-tolerant pines, the Pinus Canariensis is a popular ornamental tree in warmer climates. Take care if planting in a garden as a Pinus Canariensis is can get large if not kept in check.
Lavender – long considered a multi-tasker in the world of herbal medicine, lavender’s oil is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, so much so that it was used in the First World War as an antiseptic to treat wounds. The pale lilac or white coloured flowers produce a wonderful calming smell and its far reaching uses aid bites, burns, tiredness and tensions.
Growing lavender is simple with a dry and sunny soil; it will grow happily in a bed or even a border.
Rosemary – a great companion to lavender as they both enjoy the same conditions. Like many Mediterranean herbs, rosemary and lavender are perfect for providing fragrant planting around a seating area or near paths.
Chelsea Physic Garden continues to play a significant role in education, running a range of courses for adults and activities for over 5000 school children a year. It also retains its medicinal plant display – one of the largest in the World, along with extensive ethnobotanic, useful, edible and conservation plant collections.
Why not visit when you are next in London? Check out www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk.