Founded in 1673, Chelsea Physic Garden is one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens. This 3.5-acre green patch in the heart of London highlights the sheer beauty and importance of plants. It is one of the city’s most popular spring or summertime natural attractions for Londoners and visitors alike. Usually closed throughout the winter season, the botanical gardens will this year be open for a week, aptly named Snowdrop Days. Running February 8 to 16, this midwinter celebration of Mother Nature offers a wide variety of activities. Here are just three reasons why you should pay a visit.
During the upcoming opening, you can walk the Snowdrop Trail around the gardens, but you can also join in the guided tours. Taking in both the open-air gardens and the glasshouses, these tours with a garden expert offer the chance to see and learn about the vast array of snowdrops and other winter-flowering plants. In addition to the standard tour, there are a series of themed guided walks that happen during Snowdrop Days, too. For example, on February 10 (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), the Chelsea Physic Garden head of education, Michael Holland, will conduct a Winter Garden Safari, explaining how animals and plants adapt themselves to survive winter, while on February 12 and 16 (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.), head gardener Nick Bailey will conduct a Best in Snow tour. Every tour is free with the price of your admission ticket.
Snowdrop Days includes a host of free talks, along with a small selection of workshops. The talks will include “The Wonderful World of Snowdrops” by famed snowdrop specialist Joe Sharman on February 8 (10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.), and “Using Snowdrops in the Garden” by the horticultural journalist and show garden designer Naomi Slade on February 11 (2 p.m.). There’s also “An Evening with Germaine Greer,” the renowned broadcaster and author of White Beech: The Rainforest Years on February 12 (about $25, including a glass of wine). More workshops include “Painting Snowdrops,” a one-day drawing and watercolor painting course with botanical artist Gillian Barlow on February 13 (about $174), and “Herbal Remedies from Your Own Garden,” a practical workshop with medical herbalist Maria Vlotides on February 15 (about $157).
Food and shopping
If you wish to take the beauty of the garden back into your home, the Chelsea Physic Garden shop sells a range of homegrown plants and seeds, as well as plant products such as soaps and seasonal honey, botanical and apothecary books, and garden paraphernalia. And for foodies, the garden’s Tangerine Dream Café is regarded as one of the best lunch spots in West London. The café serves a range of Italian, European and classic British cuisine using the freshest ingredients, with a seasonal menu of dishes such as a sun-dried tomato, goat cheese and Gruyère tart with arugula and roasted cherry tomatoes, as well as lavender scones with clotted cream and housemade seasonal jam.
Chelsea Physic Garden’s Snowdrop Days run February 8 to 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs about $16.50 for adults and $11 for children and students.
Photos Courtesy of Charlie Hopkinson