Slightly wistful in Chelsea…

Chrys Chelsea PG3 1116

November sun with Chrysanthemum Chelsea Physic Garden, Tostat, 2016

This is such a wonderful chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum Chelsea Physic Garden, but it is a really late flowerer, sometimes too late, so this year I have taken advantage of the warm, dry weather to bring it out in pots much earlier, hoping that it might make it to flower at the end of October- when it won’t be almost entirely alone in the garden.

On Sunday last, though, I had the chance to visit the actual Chelsea Physic Garden in London.  Unlike the other days of my short stay, it was a beautiful day, warmish and with sunshine, even at times hazy sunshine, even better for viewing the plants.  And there were masses.  As one of the staff ruefully commented, the weather has been so warm and also dry that everything ‘has come out at once’.  I know the feeling.

The Chelsea Physic Garden is a truly wonderful space.  Dating back to 1673 when it was founded to take advantage of a warmer, sheltered, close to the river site that enabled specimens to be brought in by boat, the Garden’s function was to grow plants that were developed for medicinal use by apothecaries and also to develop plants for later commercial exploitation- think rubber in Malaysia and tea in India for example.  Now, it is a garden space still devoted to a collection of more than 5,000 plants, all of which have a use for mankind.  And it is a graceful and sensitively eco-managed space too.  A member of staff was addressing an infestation of blackfly with a hose of water- no nasty chemicals here.

Against a warm sun-baked brick wall, itself a beautiful thing, there were some lovely plants to be seen.  Huge spires of Echium pininana had tottered and teetered their way through the border, looking ever so slightly drunk, but very impressive at 2-3 metres tall, and enveloped by clouds of bees feeding.

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Echium pininana, Chelsea Physic Garden, May 2017

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Geranium maderense, Chelsea Physic garden, May 2017

These were matched by great flowering bunches of Geranium maderense, growing from twisted and knarled thick stems.  I have had a go at this, but have given up on both maderense and palmatum as too finickity for me.  But they are gorgeous in full bloom and I do get wistful.

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Palm still wrapped against the cold, Chelsea Physic Garden, May 2017

But the Garden was still wary of the weather with half-wrapped palms and other delights in pots in greenhouses.  In the shadier areas, I saw a really lovely plant that I know I can’t succeed with, Silene fimbriata.  I just adore the lightly frilled flowers which looked so magical against the late afternoon sun.

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Silene fimbriata, Chelsea Physic garden, May 2017

In another shadier spot, a marriage made in heaven was taking place with the new green fronds of the Shuttlecock Fern, Matteucia struthiopteris, and the fresh lime green sprig of Smyrniun perfoliatum.  Spring in one photograph.

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Matteucia struthiopteris and a sprig of Smyrnium perfoliatum, Chelsea Physic garden, May 2017

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Watering the Chelsea Physic Garden, May 2017

The end of the afternoon brought on the watering system, which is in use really early this year.  The immense Rheum palmatum atrosanguineum flowering spike would, I guess, have been considerably shorter without the watering- and the gorgeous, ruby colouring would have been faded.

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Rheum atrosanguineum, Chelsea Physic Garden, May 2017

Just a slight breeze wobbled this clump of Allium- but they were still towering over the fading tulips and taking the stage for themselves.

CPG Allium 517

Allium, maybe Purple Sensation, ignoring the fading tulips, Chelsea Physic Garden, May 2017

In another semi-shaded spot was a clump of cream anemones with green-yellow centres, Anemone multifida ‘Major’.  Ah well.  ‘Not for the likes of us’!

CPG Anemone mulitifida Major 517

Anemone multifida ‘Major’, Chelsea Physic Garden, May 2017


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