Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Apothecary's Garden...

Historically, an apothecary was one who formulated and dispensed medicines and tonics - the forerunner to a pharmacist. In addition to pharmaceutical remedies, the apothecary offered general medical advice and services that are now performed by other specialists, such as physicians and surgeons.

They built on the work of monk herbalists who would grow medicinal herbs in their monastic gardens and chronicle their uses.

Above and Below: Examples of monsatic medicinal gardens still extent

Below: the monastery of Mt Calvary in Santa Barbara, run by the monks of the Order of the Holy Cross, of which I am an associate, had a lovely garden high in the hills above Santa Barbara, but alas, it was raised to the ground by a bush fire 2 years ago.

The Willowbrook Apothecary's Garden

Above: A beautiful walled medicinal garden.

Below: A medieval woodcut of herb gatherers.

Within our potager we are planting two symmetrical knot gardens, both for herbs, one knot medicinal, the other culinary. The current site for the apothecary's garden looks like this...

but we shall transform the area (15 square meters) according to our design below...

We are planting herbs such as Echinacea purpurea (below), commonly thought to have immune boosting qualities...

And Valerian officinalis (above) and Chamomile (below) known to have calming effects

For a fuller list see this previous posting.

The Chelsea Physic Garden

The Chelsea Physic Garden was founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1673 for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants. Throughout the 1700s it was one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world. It is London’s oldest botanic garden and a unique living museum. In 1722 Sir Hans Sloane, the Lord of the Manor in which the garden was situated, presented the garden to the Apothecaries Company so that they could continue their botanical research. A statue of Hans Sloane by Rysbrack stood in the garden but since 1985 has been replaced by a replica and the original moved to the British Museum.

Above: The famous Cedars of Lebanon in the Physic Garden, painted by James Fuge c.1850.
They were planted in 1683, among the first to be planted in England. The last one died in 1903.

Below: The statue of Hans Sloane by Rysbrack

A brief passage from a history of the gardens...

The Manor of Chelsea is a very ancient one, and has passed through illustrious and noble hands. Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, the Duke of Northumberland an Anne of Cleves have all owned or resided here. Sir Hans Sloane purchased the Manor of the last Viscount Newhaven in the year 1712. Sir Hans Sloane was one of those men who leave their mark on the age in which they flourish. He was descended from a Scotch family, but educated in the North of Ireland. he became an ardent botanist, of no mean ability; he studied the various branches of physic successfully; he was president of the Royal College of Physicians; and he was so great a benefactor of the botanical gardens at Chelsea that he greatly enriched them with scarce and curious plants
Jamie Wong

Jamie Wong is a modern day apothecary, who describes himself as an ethnobotanist.

We were given his book for Christmas...

Here is a promotional clip for his series "Grow your own drugs"

The first recipe of his that we are going to try uses elderflowers and berries. Luckily we planted a Elder hedge 18 months ago, so we will soon have a good crop of berries.

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries


  1. Thanks for this post.

    Sir Hans Sloane was indeed one of those men who leave a mark on their age. Becoming a talented botanist and later becoming president of the Royal College of Physicians was pretty bloody impressive. I know nothing at all about medicinal gardens, but I like the Chelsea Physic Garden anyway :)

  2. This post is fascinating. I must buy James Wong's book. thanks for this great post.

  3. You always have the best blog. I am never dissappointed. Have a wonderful day
    and drop over today for my Million dollar give-a-way.


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